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Tawny Symonds of Charles City sits in court during her sentencing Monday at the Cerro Gordo County Law Enforcement Center in Mason City. Symonds was given a suspended sentence of five years probation for child endangerment, a felony charge.

CHRIS ZOELLER, MASON CITY GLOBE GAZETTE

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.

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