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Charles City homicide trial: Williams testifies he was at risk of being shot

CHARLES CITY | After several family members and friends testified in his defense Monday, Antoine Wiliams took the stand in Floyd County District Court Tuesday morning.

Williams, 36, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Nathaniel Fleming, 36, last known address Mason City. Police say Fleming was shot just before 10 p.m. near the Clarkview Apartments — now known as the Casa Apartments — in Charles City on June 30.

Steve Kolberdanz, one of two public defenders representing Williams, questioned Williams about his past. Williams, who grew up in Mississippi, said he considers himself the father of a dozen children.

Williams testified he has had a rough past, surviving both a shooting and a stabbing over a decade ago. He had been living in Charles City for a little under a year, where he was moving between jobs and trying to get on his feet.

When the focus turned to the shooting on June 30, Williams claimed Fleming had previously threatened him and others, and was acting recklessly the entire night.

Williams testified he tried to calm Fleming down, but that didn't work. Fleming, who was driving Barbara Fleming's — Williams' sister — car, abruptly pulled into a Clarkview parking spot near a dumpster, right before the fatal shooting.

Williams testified that after trying to calm Fleming down, he saw him reach toward the center console for what appeared to be a gun. He then put up one arm and turned away as he fired multiple shots into the car.

Like Edmund Brown, Williams' friend, previous testified, Williams believed he was at risk of being shot.

"This MF talking about shooting me," he told jurors Tuesday.

Both the defense and prosecution agree that Williams pulled Fleming out of the car after shooting him. 

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Coleman McAllister spent most of his cross-examination questioning Williams about his interview with Iowa DCI Special Agent Jon Turbitt on July 7. Williams initially lied before admitting he was involved in the shooting, McAllister said.

When McAllister asked Williams to confirm several statements he made to Turbitt that night, Williams said repeatedly he couldn't remember, but followed up with "yes" answers to his descriptions, because the interview was taped.

McAllister also asked Williams why he didn't take certain steps after the shooting occurred.

"Why didn't you call the police?" he asked Williams.

"Because of prior dealings with the police, it wasn't something I felt comfortable doing," he answered.

After Williams finished testifying, the defense tried to call another witness who would have testified about Nathaniel Fleming's criminal history. Judge Rustin Davenport denied the witness, however, because prosecutors were not given advance notice of the witness, who he said fell out of the scope of admissible evidence in the case. 

The defense then rested its case. 

McAllister told jurors during his closing argument to use "reason, common sense and life experiences" to conclude Williams was guilty. He added that Williams gave different stories to Turbitt about the shooting, and that he was not acting in self-defense when he walked up to Fleming and shot him.

"Actions and consequences," McAllister repeated to the jury. "We are all responsible for our actions ... the evidence shows (Williams) made a decision to pull the trigger not once, not twice, but at least four times."

Nellie O'Mara, one of two public defenders representing Williams, countered in her closing argument that Williams was not a violent person, and was simply acting in self-defense in the encounter with Fleming, whom he viewed as a "brother."

"It was either shoot or be shot," she said in court, echoing what the defense said in opening arguments.

Jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes before leaving for the day. They are expected to begin deliberations again Wednesday morning. 

Clear Lake motorcyclist sustained serious injuries in Winnebago River crash

MASON CITY | A Clear Lake man was seriously hurt after his motorcycle crashed into the Winnebago River north of Mason City Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement said. 

Bernard DeWitt, 49, was riding his motorcycle northbound on Highway 65 around 1:40 p.m. when he left the roadway, traveled into the median and ended up in the river, the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Department said in a news release. The crash occurred just north of B-20. 

DeWitt was traveling with two other friends, who were on separate motorcycles, the sheriff's office said. He did not have a passenger on his motorcycle.

Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

At least one person was transported after a motorcycle accident north of Mason City Tuesday afternoon. 

DeWitt was transported to Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa. A hospital spokesman said he couldn't release Dewitt's condition.

The sheriff's office says the incident remains under investigation. No other information is available at this time.

The Mason City police and fire departments provided assistance at the scene.

Earlier story:

MASON CITY | A man was seriously hurt after his motorcycle crashed into the Winnebago River north of Mason City Tuesday afternoon, according to a Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's deputy.

The deputy, who asked not to be named, said it appeared the man's motorcycle veered onto the gravel shoulder before a bridge guardrail on Highway 65 northbound, near County Road B-20.

The man, who was alone on the motorcycle, then traveled down the ravine and into the river, the deputy said. The crash was reported around 1:40 p.m. 

Law enforcement has not identified the man. No other information is available at this time. 

The Mason City Fire Department provided assistance at the scene. 

This is a developing story. Check back later for more details. 

Earlier story:

MASON CITY | At least one person was transported after a motorcycle accident north of Mason City Tuesday afternoon. 

First responders were on the scene near Highway 65 and County Road B-20 around 1:40 p.m., where a blue motorcycle was resting in the Winnebago River.  

No other information is available at this time.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more details. 

Iowa Press: Former USDA chief predicts rising consumer sway

JOHNSTON — Consumers, not lawmakers and regulators, may drive the debate over water quality and good farm production, according to a former U.S. agriculture secretary visiting Iowa this week.

“More and more, the general consumer, with the use of his or her smartphone and ability to communicate, is much more empowered on these issues than you used to see,” Dan Glickman, who ran the federal agriculture agency during the Clinton administration, said during recording of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.”

Glickman, 72, who was the U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary from 1995 to 2001 after representing a Kansas congressional district for 18 years, said the public “often has views and thoughts that may not be necessarily consistent with production agriculture” and that’s likely where battles over water quality and the use of GMOs — genetically modified organisms — may be fought.

“And that is why it’s good to see the seed sector and chemical sectors and the food industry beginning to respond to this by saying the public wants safe land, safe soil, cleaner water, those kinds of things,” Glickman said. “Those are factors that we didn’t see 20 and 30 and 40 years ago like we do today.”

Glickman, now executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, and Mike Johanns, who headed the USDA for two years during the George W. Bush administration, predicted that science and technology also will change the debate.

“What I see is you’ll have better science, better technology, better equipment, better everything because that has been the pace of agriculture,” said Johanns, a former Nebraska governor and one-term GOP senator who now serves on the board of the Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska as well as Deere & Co.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and I can tell you we planted corn with a four-row planter and (a) John Deere B (model tractor) and Dad would sight down the row,” said Johanns, 67, an Osage native. “You don’t do that anymore. It’s GPS. So when you look at U.S. agriculture, I do envision a day where we have the ability to say we’re just using our resources much more wisely.”

Johanns and Glickman were in Des Moines for the Iowa Hunger Summit organized by the World Food Prize.

Not every farmer currently has the capacity to use GPS to adjust planting and the application of fertilizer, herbicides and fungicides to match soil and moisture conditions, Johanns said. “But that day will come.”

Getting there will require expansion of broadband access into rural areas, and funding for agricultural research.

“So there are a lot of things that are potentially available on the research side as long as public and private research dollars are adequately funded,” he said.

Glickman thinks consumers will support that because “people do want to know what’s in their food, how it’s produced, where it’s produced, whether it’s safe, who grew it and all those kinds of things.”

“That power of consumers is going to impact a lot more players in agriculture,” he said.

In addition to farmers and ranchers, he said the medical profession may play a larger role in agriculture “because, after all, what you eat has a lot to do with how long you’re going to live.”

Iowa governor traveling to D.C. next week

DES MOINES | Pending federal action will have significant impacts on health care and the renewable fuels industry in Iowa.

Gov. Kim Reynolds will be in the nation’s capital next week, where she will have an audience with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss those issues, the governor said Tuesday.

“We’re working on both fronts,” Reynold said Tuesday at her weekly news conference at the Iowa Capitol. “I can do both issues at one time and I have to do both issues because it’s really important for the state of Iowa and for Iowans.”

Iowa is awaiting word whether the federal government will approve its waiver request to tweak its use of federal health care dollars to help make insurance options more affordable for some low-income Iowans in 2018. The state submitted what officials call the stopgap proposal in June.

President Donald Trump in August told a top federal health care official to reject the proposal after reading about it in a newspaper article, the Washington Post recently reported.

State officials say they have remained in constant contact with the federal administration, working to get approval.

“We’re in touch with the White House almost every single day regarding the stopgap proposal,” Reynolds said.

The ruling will impact health insurance options in 2018 for roughly 72,000 Iowans. If the stopgap proposal is not approved, costs could spike enough to make insurance too expensive for more than 20,000 Iowans, the state has estimated. If the proposal is approved, it could face legal challenges because it strays from how the federal Affordable Care Act was written.

Reynolds said she plans to discuss the stopgap plan with federal officials, including the vice president, while in Washington, D.C. She does not have a meeting planned with Trump.

Reynolds said she also will discuss the federal Renewable Fuels Standard with Pence and Scott Pruitt, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, during her trip.

The EPA is considering lowering the amount of biofuels that are required for production, which state renewable fuels officials say would hurt the industry and tangentially the state’s agricultural economy.

“The RFS has an impact on Iowans as well, on our economy,” Reynolds said. “Especially as we’ve seen the volatility in commodity prices. It’s really, really important now that we don’t do one more thing to really impact commodity prices (which will impact) farmers and families across the state of Iowa and the Midwest.”

In the case of the renewable fuels, Reynolds is striving to preserve a program Trump pledged to support during his 2016 campaign.

“They need to follow through with what they told us when they were campaigning and what they promised that they would do to support the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Reynolds said. “And we’re not going to let up.”

Job training top priority

A state program designed to ensure 70 percent of Iowa’s eligible workforce has post-high school education or training by 2025 is the administration’s top priority, Reynolds said.

She said her budget proposal will include funding for scholarship and grant programs for the program called Future Ready Iowa.

“This is the No. 1 priority of our administration,” Reynolds said. “It’s necessary. It’s critical.”

Reynolds said how much state funding she will propose will depend upon revenue estimates that will be published in the coming months. When a reporter asked whether her proposal will be closer to $5 million or $30 million for the scholarships and grants, Reynolds said, “Somewhere in between.”

The scholarship and grant programs were among recommendations made Tuesday by Future Ready Iowa officials.

The other recommendations are to improve and expand support for Iowans who are completing college or career training; expand internships and apprenticeships in high-demand careers; identify early education tools that prepare students for a changing economy; and create collaborations between businesses and regional workforce and education groups.