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UPDATE: Victim's parents call day care owner a 'pedophile,' balk at plea deal: 'She isn't learning anything from this'

MASON CITY — A Charles City woman accused of sexually assaulting a child at her day care was sentenced to probation Monday.

Judge Rustin Davenport sentenced Tawny Symonds, 31, to five years of probation. A sentence of five years in prison was suspended. Symonds could be sent to prison if she violates terms of her probation. She cannot have contact with minors and must pay more than $1,000 in restitution.

She declined to comment before her sentencing Monday.

The father of the child was visibly angry as he gave an impact statement prior to sentencing.

“You are a (expletive deleted) disgusting person, and I hope karma gets to you,” he said.

He left the courtroom abruptly after speaking for about a minute.

The child’s mother gave a longer statement, detailing how her daughter had been violated, and how she felt Symonds was lucky if she avoided a worse sentence.

She described Symonds as a “pedophile.”

She said she was giving a statement to continue to protect her daughter and show the community this shouldn’t be tolerable behavior. She added her daughter, who was 2 years old at the time, sustained injuries to her genital area as a result of the assault.

“Just because she’s a woman, I guess that’s put to the side,” she said of harsher charges against Symonds. “I feel like a plea deal is a slap in the face; she isn’t learning anything from this.”

Symonds did not react as the child’s parents read their statements. She is accused of using an object to sexually assault a female child under the age of 3 in December 2016, causing “blunt force trauma” to the child’s genital area, police wrote in charging documents.

The Courier is not identifying the child or her parents because it was a sexual crime.

Symonds was initially charged with three felonies: second-degree sexual abuse, assault with an object and child endangerment.

A plea agreement dropped the sexual abuse and assault charges, and Symonds was sentenced only on the lesser child endangerment charge, to which she submitted an Alford plea.

After the hearing, Iowa Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown said he and the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s office had to consider the evidence, chances of conviction and putting the affected parties through a trial.

“It was not entered into lightly. It’s a deliberate process ... particularly when you’re dealing with a child victim; it’s complicated and it’s a delicate process,” Brown said.

Asked why a sex abuse charge was dropped, Brown said he could not comment on evidence that would have gone to trial.

He said the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s Office offered Symonds a plea deal. Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen wasn’t at the sentencing and couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

“It’s not like we just go into a courtroom and can say, ‘convict,’ and then convict,” Brown said. “... I can’t give you a complete justification of it ... it’s the weight of the evidence, (and) our chances I thought we had of getting a conviction on our top count, balanced with this (sentencing) is a guaranteed outcome.”

In her Alford plea, Symonds did not admit guilt but acknowledged prosecutors could likely prove the charge.

In Iowa, a second-degree sexual abuse conviction carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison, as well as sex offender registry requirements when the offense involves a child.

A conviction on the assault charge carries a sentence of not to exceed 10 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 70 percent. This crime, officials allege, falls under the assault portion of Iowa law, not sexual abuse.

The child endangerment charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

When the case was previously scheduled to go to trial, Assistant Cerro Gordo County Attorney Gina Jorgensen noted in court documents prosecutors would seek enhanced sentencing as Symonds was a mandatory reporter while working as a day care provider.

On Dec. 4, Jorgensen was withdrawn from the case and replaced by Dalen. Symonds submitted an Alford plea about a week later.

Symonds earlier asked for a closed sentencing hearing after there was an uproar on social media about the plea deal. Davenport ruled against closing the hearing.

Courtney Fiorini contributed to this article.

Cedar Falls Community Theatre half way to goal for capital campaign

Teig Torres

CEDAR FALLS – Nearly half way there.

The Cedar Falls Community Theatre has raised nearly $650,000 toward its “On Goes the Show” $1.5 million capital campaign goal. Funds are being raised for improvements at the 108-year-old Oster Regent Theatre.

Having raised that sum by reaching out to CFCT board members and other dedicated supporters through personal contacts and a letter campaign, CFCT is now appealing to grassroots fans.

“We’ll be sharing materials and information about the campaign in racks in the lobby and making announcements during curtain announcements at shows, along with phone calls and meetings with interested businesses and individuals,” said John C. Luzaich, general manager.

CFCT luminaries Kristin Teig Torres and Gary Kroeger are co-chairing the capital committee, which also includes Luzaich, CFCT Artistic Coordinator Liane Nichols, CFCT board chair Pat Lyons, Ann Lyons and Julie King, CFCT office coordinator. Actress Annabeth Gish, who grew up in Cedar Falls and is currently starring in Fox-TV’s “The X-Files,” is serving as honorary chair. Gish served in the same position during the 1994 Restore the Regent campaign.

“The Oster Regent is a mainstay of Main Street. We need to support it and keep it vital. We have this beautiful old building that is an aesthetic place for people to come and experience live theater,” Teig Torres said.

The theater entertains about 35,000 patrons each year, drawing audience members into downtown Cedar Falls from around the area.

“When I moved back to the Cedar Valley after 14 years in Denver, Colo., it was extremely important to continue living out my passion for acting, and having a place to do that right in the heart of Main Street was critical,” said Teig Torres, who has also directed at CFCT.

At the same time, she said, “we need to invest in upkeep” at the Oster Regent Theatre. Updates and repairs will keep “theater fresh and on the cutting edge” for serving people.

Nichols agreed. “We have this wonderful facility and a great reputation, and we don’t want to lose all of that. The building is important to us as a venue and as a historical piece for Cedar Falls, and the upkeep of a 100-plus-year-old building is not pain-free.”

Luzaich ticked off a list of items the capital campaign is expected to help fund, including a new roof and improvements to the stage and back stage areas, curtains, orchestra pit, sound system, Main Street entryway, the box seats, the marquee, an office technology package and a cyclorama, used to create the illusion of sky, space or great distance at the rear of the stage.

“We also want to establish a musical endowment so we can continue to produce musicals, which are very expensive because of royalties and licensing rights,” Luzaich said.

Theater technology has changed dramatically since the Oster Regent underwent restoration nearly 25 years ago. “We’re trying to update those things, and we have a wish list and well as things we need right away, like a roof,” Nichols said.

As precursor to the campaign, CFCT rebranded with a new logo created by 1 Vision. “The logo is a visual representation of the brand that CFCT has been developing for decades as a fun, engaging place that cares about the community and the history of Cedar Falls,” said Blake Conover, president of 1Vision.

“It’s always the work of volunteers that make any campaign successful, and that’s true here, as well. The staff, committee and volunteers have made this an easy campaign.”

Several special fundraising events are planned, including Gish appearing on stage with Teig Torres in “Love, Loss and What I Wore” on March 24. Tickets are expected to go on sale March 9. Capital campaign contributors of $2,500 or more will get priority seating with two tickets to the show and a VIP reception event with the cast following the show.

“CFCT is celebrating its 40th anniversary and intends to be around for many more years. Some of us won’t be around, but other people will be, and we want to make sure this theater continues to thrive. We’re laying the ground work to leave it in good shape,” Luzaich added.

Matthew Putney / COURIER FILE PHOTO  

The Oster Regent Theatre at the corner of First and Main streets in Cedar Falls. 

Trump's budget balloons deficits, cuts social safety net (copy)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump unveiled a $4.4 trillion budget plan Monday that envisions steep cuts to America’s social safety net but mounting spending on the military, formally retreating from last year’s promises to balance the federal budget.

The president’s spending outline for the first time acknowledges that the Republican tax overhaul passed last year would add billions to the deficit and not “pay for itself” as Trump and his Republican allies asserted. If enacted as proposed, although no presidential budget ever is, the plan would establish an era of $1 trillion-plus yearly deficits.

The open embrace of red ink is a remarkable public reversal for Trump and his party, which spent years objecting to President Barack Obama’s increased spending during the depths of the Great Recession. Rhetoric aside, however, Trump’s pattern is in line with past Republican presidents who have overseen spikes in deficits as they simultaneously increased military spending and cut taxes.

“We’re going to have the strongest military we’ve ever had, by far,” Trump said in an Oval Office appearance Monday. “In this budget we took care of the military like it’s never been taken care of before.”

Trump’s budget revived his calls for big cuts to domestic programs that benefit the poor and middle class, such as food stamps, housing subsidies and student loans. Retirement benefits would remain mostly untouched by Trump’s plan, as he has pledged, although Medicare providers would absorb about $500 billion in cuts — a nearly 6 percent reduction. Some beneficiaries in Social Security’s disability program would have to re-enter the workforce under proposed changes to eligibility rules.

While all presidents’ budgets essentially are dead on arrival — Congress writes and enacts its own spending legislation — Trump’s plan was dead before it landed. It came just three days after the president signed a bipartisan agreement that set broad parameters for spending over the next two years. That deal, which includes large increases for domestic programs, rendered Monday’s Trump plan for 10-year, $1.7 trillion cuts to domestic agencies, such as the departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development even more unrealistic.

Trump also is proposing work requirements for several federal programs, including housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid. Such ideas have backing from powerful figures in Congress including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who promises action on a “workforce development” agenda this year.

There was immediate opposition from Democrats.

“The Trump budget proposal makes clear his desire to enact massive cuts to health care, anti-poverty programs and investments in economic growth to blunt the deficit-exploding impact of his tax cuts for millionaires and corporations,” said Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Some Republicans, on the other hand, said spending was much too high.

“This budget continues too much of Washington’s wasteful spending — it does not balance in ten years, and it creates a deficit of over a trillion dollars next year,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. “We cannot steal from America’s future to pay for spending today.

Trump’s plan aims at other familiar targets. It would eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The administration wants NASA out of the International Space Station by 2025 and private businesses running the place instead.

But the domestic cuts would be far from enough to make up for the plummeting tax revenue projected in the budget.

Trump’s plan sees a 2019 deficit of $984 billion, although White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney admits $1.2 trillion is more plausible after last week’s congressional budget pact and $90 billion worth of disaster aid is tacked on. That would be more than double the 2019 deficit the administration promised last year.

All told, the new budget sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade; Trump’s plan last year projected a 10-year shortfall of $3.2 trillion. And that’s assuming Trump’s rosy economic predictions come true and Congress follows through — in an election year — with politically toxic cuts to social programs, farm subsidies and Medicare providers.

Last year Trump’s budget promised such ideas could generate a small budget surplus by 2027; now, his best-case scenario is for a $450 billion deficit that year, more than $300 billion of which can be traced to his December tax cut.

In stark numbers, the budget rewrites the administration’s talking points for last year’s tax plan, which administration figures, such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, promised would more than pay for itself.

“Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt,” Mnuchin declared in September.

Instead, Trump’s budget projects that tax revenues will plummet by $3.7 trillion over the 2018-27 decade relative to last year’s “baseline” estimates.