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Logan Avenue murder trial goes to the jury

WATERLOO — Even though only one bullet struck and killed Otavious Brown as he stood next to a Logan Avenue home, all three people in the SUV where the shooting came from should be held accountable, prosecutors said.

“All people involved in this drive-by shooting would be responsible for the one bullet that actually hit and killed Otavious Brown. They are all responsible because they were all jointly committing this crime,” said Assistant County Attorney James Katcher during closings in the state’s case against Armand Rollins, Shavondes Martin and Doncorrion Spates.

All three are charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and intimidation with a weapon with intent in the July 17, 2016, shooting that killed Brown, 21, and wounded Aundrey Roberts Jr. and Dewon Campbell.

Deliberations in the case are expected to begin this morning.

Katcher said the three were passengers in a Chevrolet Tahoe that drove past a group of people outside 817 Logan Ave. The driver, Jacques Williamson, claimed the three forced him at gunpoint to drive past the address as he was taking them back from a trip to a Broadway Street convenience store.

Photos: Logan Avenue murder trial

Katcher said Rollins, Martin and Spates had planned to get Williamson to drive to the location as part of a plot for the shooting.

“All they wanted to do was do some shooting, and if somebody dies, that’s great,” Katcher said. He said even if all three weren’t shooting — police found four .45-caliber shell casings fired by the same weapon and one spent 10mm casing — they were aiding and abetting each other.

And he said even if they hadn’t planned to take a life and only wanted to scare people, they can still be found guilty of murder because they took a life while participating in a felony.

“It may have been that they never intended to kill anybody,” Katcher said. “If you have multiple guns being fired at a group of people, it’s reasonable to expect that somebody could be hit and killed.”

Martin was in the front passenger seat during the shooting — which targeted the crowd on the driver’s side — and Spates and Rollins were in the backseat. Williamson said Martin reached across to fire out the driver’s window, and he said he heard gunfire from the backseat.

No witnesses at the scene were able to identify the shooters, and defense attorneys for the three said there is no credible evidence their clients were anything more than passengers in Williamson’s vehicle.

“Just sitting in a vehicle, the wrong vehicle, isn’t aiding and abetting,” said defense attorney Cory Goldensoph, who is representing Martin.

The defense said the only evidence to back the state’s claim any of the defendants fired a shot comes from Williamson, who told investigators a number of stories before arriving at the claim he was coerced.

“There is reality, and then there is Mr. Williamson’s version of events,” Goldensoph said. “His story is so unbelievable that you can simply discard it.”

Defense attorney Andrew Thalacker, representing Rollins, said Williamson — who ultimately pleaded to lesser charges as part of an agreement to testify for the state — made 40 false statements to police in the hours following the shooting, and he used surveillance camera footage from outside a store to counter Williamson’s account he was stopped at a stop sign for almost a minute while his passengers had threatened him, and that he attempted to turn before reaching the Logan address.

Attorney John Bishop, who is representing Spates, said Williamson came up with his account that he was essentially taken hostage by his passengers as a way to avoid his own murder charges.

“Mr. Williamson said he didn’t shoot. His total lack of credibility said he did shoot,” Bishop said.

Markets waiting a while for a pullback. Then, pow!

NEW YORK — The long, smooth, record-setting ride on Wall Street is over. The stock market pullback experts had been saying was long overdue has finally come.

Investor fears about higher interest rates escalated into rapid, computer-generated selling Monday that wiped out all the market’s gains for the year. At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1,000 points in less than an hour, and it ended with its worst day in more than six years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is now down nearly 8 percent from its record high, set a little more than a week ago.

Market professionals warned the selling could continue for a bit. But many also were quick to say they see no recession looming, and they expect the strengthening global economy and healthy corporate earnings to help stock prices recover.

“The reasons for the increase in rates is the stronger economy,” said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust. “The reasons are positive. It’s not as if something like 2008 or financial Armageddon is coming.”

The trigger for the sell-off came at the end of last week when a government report showed that wages across the country rose relatively quickly last month. While that’s good for workers, traders took it as a signal that higher inflation may be on the way, which could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than expected. Higher rates not only make it more expensive for people and companies to borrow, they also can drive investors away from stocks and into bonds.

The sell-off Monday was so steep some market-watchers blamed automated trading systems. These systems are programmed to buy and sell based on several variables, and they may have hit their sell triggers following the first wobble for stock prices after an unusually placid run.

That may mean even more volatility in the coming days, something investors haven’t had to deal with during a blissful year-plus of record-setting returns. Before Monday, the S&P 500 index had gone a record period of time — roughly 400 trading days — without a drop of even 5 percent.

Monday was the first day in office for the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, and investors are wondering how closely he will stick with the low interest-rate policies set by his predecessor, Janet Yellen.

Still, many market-watchers said they remain optimistic stocks will recover.

Despite worries about interest rates, they still see a recession as a long shot. With economies growing around the world, profits for U.S. businesses are expected to continue rising, and stock prices tend to follow the path of corporate earnings over the long term.

“The rate worries have been the trigger” for the stock market’s swoon, said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle. “But fundamentally, we don’t see any new news. It’s earnings season, the time that we get more direct feedback from our companies, and we don’t see any concerns.”

More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have told investors how they performed in the last three months of 2017, and most have topped analysts’ expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even more encouraging is that more than three quarters of them reported more revenue than expected, which means it’s not just cost-cutting and layoffs that are allowing companies to earn more.

The White House cited some of those trends Monday and said “long-term economic fundamentals ... remain exceptionally strong.”

President Donald Trump frequently has commented on gains by the market during his first year in office. He has stayed silent in the face of market gyrations over the past week.

If the stock market does indeed bounce back, though, many market-watchers expect returns to be more muted than in prior years because prices have already climbed so high. The S&P 500 is up nearly 292 percent since bottoming in early 2009.

And investors should remember that drops like those of the past two days aren’t a unique occurrence for stocks. They’re inherently risky investments, and investors should be prepared to see drops of 10 percent. Such declines happen so regularly that analysts have a name for them: a market correction.

Cedar Falls at impasse on College Hill project

CEDAR FALLS — Proponents and opponents of a large development in the College Hill area fought to a draw before the City Council on Monday night.

After two hours of discussion, council members voted 6-1 to table developer Brent Dahlstrom’s proposed 61,000-square-foot, five-story residential-commercial development at the bottom of College Hill.

A Dahlstrom company proposed incorporating the former Ginger’s bar site, 925 W. 22nd St., and two adjacent properties at 1003 W. 22nd St. and 2119 College St. Ginger’s was damaged in a 2016 fire that consumed the now-reconstructed Great Wall restaurant. Ginger’s did not resume business and has been demolished.

Council members heard many of the same arguments posed in three previous meetings before the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission, from many of the same speakers.

Proponents said the project was a much-needed project in the College Hill area near the University of Northern Iowa campus. Opponents said it would compound parking problems on the Hill and said city staff was wrong in its interpretation of zoning rules in recommending approval. A representative of Northern Iowa Student government indicated that body questioned the adequacy of its parking.

Council member Frank Darrah called for the matter to be tabled to give everyone involved time to sort things out.

“I want to support this, but I want the questions answered that were asked tonight,” Darrah said. “Is the parking adequate? Is this equitable with other developers in our community? I want something that’s consistently applied on the Hill, with downtown. Can we use Brent’s College Hill thing as a model for future growth?”

Darrah thinks Dahlstrom can come up with a solution.

“I want appeal to his angels,” Darrah said of Dahlstrom. “He cares about this community. There’s no question about it. He’s a smart young developer who has a vision and I think we can learn from that by working with him. Some kind of compromise along the way.”

Dahlstrom, speaking to the council after the tabling, expressed frustration over his inability to talk directly to elected officials because of a decade-old legal opinion. It advises the city elected officials as well as some board and commission member against direct communications with parties in a development proposal outside a public meeting. Project opponents heard the same thing.

Darrah shared Dahlstrom’s frustrations. “I’m elected to represent people. How can I represent people if I don’t know what their thoughts are?”

The zoning rules and the issue of “ex parte” communications will be subjects of future council work sessions. Community Development Director Stephanie Houk Sheetz said city staff began discussing zoning rules with Planning and Zoning Commission members at the end of their last meeting.

“I believe things can be resolved,” Darrah said. “But I’d like it tabled so we could look at our ordinance and make it work. And I’d like Brent to give us some of his input on that. We’re too small a town to have this. We should be able to sit down with each other.”