MASON CITY | The Iowa Attorney General's office has filed a motion resisting Tawny Symonds' request to have her sentencing hearing closed next month.

Scott Brown, an assistant attorney general, told the Globe Gazette by phone Friday morning that he hoped to file that motion later Friday or Monday. According to court documents, it was filed early Friday afternoon.

He said he has recently been assigned to the case because Denise Timmins, another assistant attorney general, was reassigned to another case in central Iowa on a speedy trial request.

"Someone had to pick it up," Brown said. "It had nothing to do with anyone's ability ... it was just a scheduling thing."

Brown said he could not comment on how the plea agreement was reached, citing that Symonds still has to be sentenced next month.

He did, however, cite two prior cases in Iowa as reason for why the state would be resisting the motion to close the sentencing hearing.

In one of those cases, State v. Farnum, the Iowa Supreme Court determined that Orley Ivan Farnum could not close his trial to the public. Farnum had appealed after he had been found guilty of three counts of felony second-degree sexual abuse, among other charges.

"The justification for denying access to a trial must be a weighty one ... The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion to exclude spectators from the courtroom and close the trial," the court's opinion read. 

A ruling has not been issued in regards to whether the hearing will be closed. If Symonds' hearing were to be closed, her sentence would still be public record. 

Symonds, 31, of Charles City, was initially charged with assault, felony second-degree sex abuse and child endangerment in December of last year, for allegedly victimizing a child at her home-run day care in Mason City.

Earlier this week, she submitted an Alford plea to the child endangerment charge. The court agreed to drop the two more serious charges, causing an uproar on social media.

According to court documents, the former prosecutor in the case, Assistant Cerro Gordo County Attorney Gina Jorgensen, withdrew Dec. 4. Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen replaced her.

Jorgensen submitted a letter of resignation to Dalen on Nov. 21, and her last day of work was Dec. 5. Symonds submitted her Alford plea Dec. 11.

Symonds' sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 28, 2018, at the Cerro Gordo County Courthouse.

Contact Steve at 641-421-0527 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.

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