Man who drove his truck into abortion rights protesters in Cedar Rapids wants assault charge dismissed and trial moved out of Linn County

Video still of truck leaving the scene after hitting protesters in front of the Cedar Rapids U.S. Courthouse, June 24, 2022.

The man who drove his pickup truck into protesters crossing a street in Cedar Rapids in June pleaded not guilty to both crimes with which he has been charged. Several weeks after the incident, David Huston of Swisher was charged with Assault While Displaying a Dangerous Weapon and Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident.

The first is an aggravated misdemeanor, and carries the possibility of up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine between $855 and $8,540. The second is a serious misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of a year imprisonment and a fine between $430 and $2,560.

The case stems from an incident at the end of a June 24 march protesting the U.S. Supreme Court decision issued that day overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating any constitutional right to an abortion. Protesters who had gathered for a rally and march at the Cedar Rapids U.S. Courthouse at 111 7th Ave SE.

A group of women near the end of the march were returning to the staging area when Huston swerved his Ford F-150 out from behind two cars stopped ahead of him and drove forward into the group. According to a statement the Cedar Rapids Police Department issued at the time, the protesters “were attempting to legally cross the street in front of the Federal Courthouse when the traffic lights changed, giving right of way to vehicles on 8th Avenue.”

The CRPD statement said it happened at “approximately 7:17 p.m.,” and described the incident as “a single pedestrian … injured by contact with a vehicle.” One woman, whose foot was run over by the truck, was taken to the hospital for evaluation, but according to people who were at the march there were other injuries.

The criminal complaint filed against Huston only charges him with injuring one protester.

Appearing in a Linn County courtroom on Monday, Huston’s attorney argued the assault charge should be dismissed, because his client’s pickup truck cannot be considered a dangerous weapon under Iowa law, referencing the opening sentence of the chapter of Iowa code that defines such a weapon as “any instrument or device designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal.”

But that chapter contains an additional definition: “any instrument or device of any sort whatsoever which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other.”

Appearing on behalf of the Linn County Attorney’s Office, Assistant Black Hawk County Attorney Heather Jackson argued that because Huston drove in a “reckless manner” and “intended to create a situation that was alarming” to protesters as they were crossing the street, the charge is appropriate.

The Black Hawk County Attorney’s Office is handling the case at the request of Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, because Maybanks may be called as a witness in the case.

Maybanks wasn’t the only elected official to witness the protest on June 24. Cedar Rapids Councilmember Ashley Vanorny and Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker were also present.

“As I crossed the street, I heard a commotion,” Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker told the Gazette that evening. “I turned back to see a truck driving into the crowd with at least two young women — one of whom is a Linn County staffer — directly in front of the vehicle, and another woman appeared to be engaged with the vehicle near the driver’s side.”

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“It became apparent that the vehicle had no intention of stopping so I ran as fast as I could to try to get the young staffer out of harm’s way,” he said. “The driver accelerated and injured several young women in the process. Thankfully the women in front of the vehicle were not run over.”

Because of the presence of those elected officials, and media coverage of the incident — which Huston’s attorney contended unfairly describes his client’s action as he drove into the protesters — Huston has requested the trial be moved out of Linn County.

Jackson argued an impartial jury can be seated in Linn County through careful questioning of potential jurors.

Judge Angie Johnston said she would rule on the motions made Monday at the next pretrial hearing in the case, which is scheduled for Dec. 14.