DAVENPORT --- A Scott County judge has reversed his Dec. 26 ruling barring media from naming or photographing a 12-year-old boy accused of trying to shoot a teacher at North Scott Junior High School teacher in late August.
In a written order filed Wednesday, Judge Patrick McElyea said media also will not be prohibited from naming or photographing minor witnesses that may testify at trial “until further order of this Court.”
According to state law, a criminal complaint that alleges a child at least 10 years old has committed a delinquent act that would be a forcible felony if committed by an adult, is a public record and shall not be confidential.
The law further states the court, the court’s “designee,” or law enforcement officials may release the complaint, including the identity of the child named.
The boy is charged in Scott County District Court with attempted murder, a forcible felony, assault while using or displaying a deadly weapon and carrying weapons on school grounds.
“In order to be consistent with the intent of the legislature and with the Court’s other rulings regarding public access to the proceedings in the above matter, the Court does find it appropriate to reconsider the prior prohibition on publication of the defendant’s name and his photograph,” McElyea wrote.
Attorneys or a witness who wants to file a written objection to expanded news media coverage must do so 10 days before trial, he wrote.
Police say the boy tried to fire a loaded .22-caliber pistol at his teacher's face on Aug. 31, but the safety was on. He was charged as a juvenile and, in early December, a judge ruled he will be tried in adult court as a youthful offender. If convicted, he will remain under the supervision of the juvenile court until he turns 18. His case would then transfer to adult court and a judge could determine if he should be imprisoned, released or serve another punishment.
On Wednesday, the boy filed a written plea of not guilty to the charges through his attorney, Melanie Thwing.
His father, Joseph Andrews III, 50, of Davenport, has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm after police determined the boy used an illegally owned pistol he got from his father's unlocked cabinet.
The Iowa Freedom of Information Council and its director, Randy Evans, filed a motion earlier this month asking the judge to reconsider his ruling. The council argued McElyea "took the extraordinary and unconstitutional step of imposing a prior restraint by enjoining all news organizations from publishing the name of the boy, who is being tried as a youthful offender in adult court, and any witness under the age of 18 who testifies in open court.
The council argued there is no compelling legal reason or need to withhold the boy's name, and that the boy's name already is public knowledge as his identity is "widely known in the community and by teachers, students, and neighbors."
At a hearing Dec. 26, lawyers for the Quad-City Times sought to keep the proceedings open to the public without restrictions.
"We made a news judgment to withhold the boy's identity, even before the judge issued the gag order," Times Executive Editor Matt Christensen said earlier this month. "But on principle, we agree with the council's request and believe the media should be free to report on court dealings without prior restrictions from the government."