By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Bremer County jury found Douglas Lindaman not guilty last week on a charge of tampering with witnesses who were involved in another case.
The jury deliberated for about four hours before returning with the not-guilty verdict late Thursday afternoon on the aggravated misdemeanor charge.
The charge was filed by the Floyd County Attorney’s Office in March, but the trial was moved to Waverly after the judge granted a change of venue request because of extensive publicity, including involving the related case of Lindaman being tried three times on a charge of sexual abuse in the third degree, a Class C felony.
The initial trial in Floyd County on the sex abuse charge resulted in a guilty verdict in 2016, but that conviction was overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court. A second trial in February this year in Hampton ended in a mistrial when witnesses for the prosecution brought up information about Lindaman’s history that the judge had ordered not to be mentioned.
At the third trial, in April this year in Cerro Gordo County, the jury convicted Lindaman on a lesser charge, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor.
Lindaman, age 62, of Charles City, has appealed that conviction and the sentence, and is currently free on an appeal bond.
The tampering with a witness charge was filed March 1, after the second sexual abuse trial ended in mistrial.
The tampering charges accused him of trying to get the witnesses in the abuse case to change their testimony in return for the case being dropped, according to court records.
Lindaman had been accused of sexually touching the genitals of a 17-year-old boy he employed on his farm.
After the alleged incident took place, Lindaman and the teenager and the teen’s parents had signed a contract whereby Lindaman paid the family $3,000 and the family agreed that no sexual or other crimes had taken place and that the $3,000 represented the net damages between them.
The alleged victim in the family and his brother testified at Lindaman’s sexual abuse trial that they did not understand the legal terms in the agreement, and the parents testified that when they signed the agreement they had not known that their son would allege Lindaman touched his genitals.
Lindaman filed a small claims suit against the family on Feb. 16, arguing that they did not follow the terms of the contract they had signed.
In filing the tampering charge against Lindaman, The Floyd County Attorney’s Office said the timing of the suit and Lindaman’s offer to dismiss the suit if the family agreed to the validity of the agreement were an attempt to bribe or threaten the witnesses in the sexual assault case.
Assistant Floyd County Attorney Randall Tilton prosecuted the case last week. He told the Press he thought the case was presented well, but it was largely in the form of written documents.
“The event which we were claiming was tampering with a witness was a filing of a small claim petition, so that petition was offered into evidence as well as other documents that prove that the (alleged victim’s) family was subpoenaed to appear in a different case in regard to the criminal trial,” Tilton said.
“I got the feeling this was one of those cases where sometimes jurors want to see, perhaps, more than what is necessary in order to prove a case,” Tilton said. “Sometimes jurors want to see a little drama with respect to the evidence provided in the case, and that actually was not provided in this one, and that may have been the reason why they came back with the decision that they did.”
He said the jury deliberated for a fair amount of time before returning the verdict, “so I definitely don’t think it was any knee-jerk-type of reaction.”
Lindaman argued at the tampering trial that his small claims suit was a legitimate purpose to settle a contract dispute, and his offer to drop the suit was a typical negotiation effort in such suits.
In a statement sent to the Press, Lindaman said the tampering charge had not been raised by the witnesses.
“There was no evidence that the four ‘tampered witnesses’ had ever been told that they had been the subject matter of a tampering charge by Floyd County,” Lindaman said.
Lindaman represented himself in the case with standby counsel, as he had done in the retrials on the sexual assault charges.