MASON CITY | A North Iowa judge has denied closing a sentencing hearing for a Charles City woman charged with sexually abusing a child while working as a Mason City day care provider. 

Judge Rustin Davenport has ruled the sentencing hearing for Tawny Symonds, 31, will remain open, after Iowa Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown filed a motion to resist her attorneys' request to close it earlier this month.

In the motion, Brown said Symonds, her attorneys and prosecutors "may be uncomfortable or disagree with the objections" to the plea agreement, but noted people have the right to express opinions and view the court process first-hand. 

"Hopefully, once the public has all the information there will be a complete understanding of the agreement that was entered," Brown wrote. 

Neither Davenport or Steve Kloberdanz — a public defender representing Symonds and who filed the motion to close the hearing — could be reached for comment by phone Wednesday afternoon.

Davenport's decision follows a period when there was an uproar on social media about a plea deal for Symonds.

Symonds submitted a written Alford plea in Cerro Gordo County District Court to child endangerment, in exchange for the felony second-degree sexual abuse and assault charges being dropped. 

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An Alford plea is when a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the state can likely prove the charge.

Police say Symonds victimized a child at her home-run daycare in southeastern Mason City. She was arrested in December 2016. 

Brown, the state assistant attorney general, said Wednesday he had not heard Davenport's ruling, and quickly reviewed it in an interview with the Globe Gazette. He added he was not surprised about the decision.

"It’s no more dangerous than any other court hearing," he said. "Emotions can run pretty high in anything we do."

Brown said the court may "beef up" security with the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Office to allow the hearing to proceed in a civil manner, if that protection is needed.

Disturbances in the courtroom, disrespectful conduct and threats towards those involved in the case can result in contempt charges, Brown's motion noted. 

Symonds' sentencing has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 12, 2018, at the Cerro Gordo County Law Enforcement Complex.

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


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