Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Update on attack on editor

The Ottumwa Courier, of which I was once editor (1982-86), has published an update on the case of the Iowa editor who was attacked a couple of weeks ago. The Courier's article is posted below, with the permission of Publisher Tom Hawley. (I am posting the photo provided by Iowa Newspaper Association.)

Ottumwa Courier staff writer

CENTERVILLE -- A second suspect will be charged in an alleged assault on an area newspaper editor on Sept. 1, an attack which may have been prompted by an article the editor wrote back in April.

"We've got an additional charge on an additional person, same charge as on Wade Adams ... assault with intent to inflict serious injury," said Centerville Police Chief Dan Howington. He declined to name the second suspect, who has not yet been taken into custody. The original suspect in the case, Adams, 27, was arrested immediately after the incident, and is currently free on bail.

In the meantime, said Howington, the investigation continues. Daily Iowegian Managing Editor Dan Ehl said the night he was beaten, he had brought two writers from England to a local bar and grill. The pair were interviewing subjects for a book, and things were going fine, Ehl said Monday. He said he didn't know the manager of another bar, Adams, was in the area.

"I did not even recognize him until he started screaming [at me] ...," Ehl claimed. Ehl said he knew of one previous contact with the man. Ehl had gone to a regular meeting of the Centerville City Council. At that meeting, the police approached the council, requesting the City not renew the liquor license for The Hot Spot, a bar managed by Adams. Ehl said he wrote about the council meeting and the licensing dispute in an article, not an opinion piece, that went on the front page as city council coverage typically does.

Adams allegedly called Ehl the next day, shouting and otherwise expressing anger that the article would be harmful to his business. "That was in April. I guess he's been angry ever since," Ehl said.

When Adams began shouting at him outside of the bar and grill recently, Ehl claims he told Adams he simply reported what was discussed at the council meeting. He said the alleged attack, in front of several witnesses, came as a complete surprise. Ehl said he is "not much of a fighter." He added Adams is a big guy, and strong enough that even if Ehl hadn't been knocked down by what he called a "sucker punch," he couldn't have defended himself against the man.

Adams could not be reached for comment either at the phone number listed for his residence or at the Hot Spot Lounge on Monday.

"It was a shock," said Ehl. "While I lay there, I remember feeling a sharp pain [in my leg] while they were kicking me." He said he does remember being kicked in the head and body, but that he "must have passed out" at one point, and was told later by a witness Adams and an accomplice continued "stomping" on him. "I don't even know who called the police, but I'm glad somebody did," Ehl said. "I know afterwards, the bartender was standing out there."

Ehl found out his leg had been broken when he was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Centerville, where he was also treated for facial injuries. Ehl said he is pressing charges. "I hope he gets sent a message so he stops doing this," Ehl said. "It'd be nice to think I'd be the last one he'd rough up."

Ehl said he believes criminal charges could be raised from an aggravated misdemeanor to a felony. But that would be up to the prosecutor, and Appanoose County Attorney Robert Boswell told the Courier he never comments to the press about ongoing cases. He said the present case is in that time between "arrest-complaint" and "trial information" where he cannot discuss it. He explained after an arrest and complaint are filed by police, the county attorney has 45 days to present "trial information" on what he will charge -- or not charge -- a suspect with.

In an assault case, Boswell said, a county attorney may need to wait on evidence like "medical testimony" to decide what charges he will pursue. He did say that charges can be adjusted up or down by trial information time.

A delay in reporting

Though the incident happened early the morning of Sept. 1, the Daily Iowegian had not printed the article until Sept. 6.

Ehl said he's heard some criticism for the delay, and he understands the questions.

But Ehl said as an objective news source, he and the Iowegian had something of an ethical question facing them; how to report fairly on something he was so involved in. He said management at the newspaper hesitated, perhaps a bit too long, before running an article.

"[We] waited for the statement from the police; [The paper] didn't want to do anything unfair," he said.

1 comment:

Dick Peligro said...

For a somewhat different perspective on subsequent events befalling this singular individual, go to:

Don't neglect the comments, which you may find, well, modestly diverting -- in a mildly amusing sort of fashion.