The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Dubuque man convicted of rape will get a new trial because his 2021 trial was closed to the public due to COVID concerns.

A jury found 25-year-old Ronald James Brimmer guilty of second degree sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for drinking with a 16 year old and forcing her to have sex when she was intoxicated. Brimmer appealed, arguing his right to a public trial was violated when the district court judge prevented members of the public, including his mother, from
attending. The judge cited concerns about maintaining six feet of distancing between people in the courtroom.

All seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court agreed there was enough evidence to support Brimmer’s conviction, but a narrow majority said the constitutional right to a public trial is important to uphold, even in an “unsavory case.” A dissenting justice wrote that he saw no reason to put the rape victim through another trial simply to make “an academic point” about the importance of having trials accessible to the public.


Radio Iowa