A district judge has ordered the release of a mentally challenged Burlington man charged last month with sexually assaulting a 25-year-old woman at an assisted living home on South Hill while his case moves through the Des Moines County court system.
District Judge Michael Schilling issued a two-page ruling late Monday ordering the release of Dal-Ton M. Blair, 23, 2900 Flint Hill Drive, after his attorney told the court Blair was declared "mentally retarded" by the Social Security Administration in 1999, when he was 5 years old.
He is charged in Des Moines County District Court with two counts of third-degree sexual assault, a class C felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Blair's attorney, Peter Hansen, told Schilling during a bond reduction hearing Monday that Blair functions at an intellectual level between "5 and 10 years old." He argued to Schilling his client should not be housed at the Des Moines County jail while his case is pending because the staff is not qualified to handle people with severe mental disabilities.
Although Justin Stonerook, an assistant Des Moines County attorney, did not endorse Hansen's request to release Blair on pretrial supervision, he did not argue to keep him in jail.
"I would just say that the jail does not appear to be the appropriate place for the defendant at this time," Stonerook told Schilling.
Following the 30-minute hearing Monday, Schilling took the matter under advisement while he contemplated several alternatives to keeping Blair in the county jail.
In the end, Schilling agreed to release Blair to the custody of his grandmother under strict pretrial release to be monitored through the Eighth Judicial District's Department of Correctional Services in Burlington.
As part of his pretrial release, Blair must remain at his grandmother's Burlington residence between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily; he must wear a GPS tracking device continuously; live with his grandmother, who his guardian, at 2900 Flint Hills Drive; and not have conduct with the 25-year-old victim in the case or anyone else under the age of 18.
In a related matter, Schilling also approved a request from Hansen to have the state pay to have Blair evaluated by Frank Gersh, an Iowa City psychologist, to determine if he is competent to stand trial. His evaluation is to be conducted Feb. 24 in Iowa City. Schilling also gave Stonerook the opportunity to have his own psychologist examine Blair before he decides whether he is competent.
Schilling postponed future court proceedings against Blair until after Blair is evaluated.
Blair, who told District Associate Judge Jennifer Bailey during his first court appearance last month he had learning disabilities and can’t read or write, didn't seem to understand what was going on during his initial court appearance for at Monday's hearing.
According to documents unsealed at the time of his arrest, the first incident occurred on Oct. 27, the victim’s birthday, which Hansen said Blair was invited to attend. The second assault occurred a few days later when she was assaulted while taking a shower. In each case, Blair is accused of having sex with the woman against her will.
The alleged assaults occurred at an assisted living home in the 1000 block of South 14th Street, where the alleged victim lived. The residence is now vacant and has a “for rent sign” in the front yard.
Hansen told Schilling that during the party, in which there was no adult supervision, alcohol was being consumed by several other mentally challenged adults. Hansen said he does not believe his client consumed alcohol at the party.
According to court records, Burlington police began investigating the assaults Oct. 31 after they were contacted by the woman indicating she had been sexually assaulted.
“Due to her diminished mental capacity, detectives arranged for an interview with (the woman) at the Child Protection Center,” court records indicate. During the interview, the woman described the two sexual assaults.
At one point in the interview, the woman told investigators she was initially afraid to tell anyone about the assaults because Blair had told her he would “strangle or kill” her.
Following additional investigation, warrants were issued for Blair's arrest.
Blair, who has been in custody at the county jail in lieu of a $20,000 cash only bond since his arrest Jan. 24, remained in custody late Tuesday. He is expected to be released from custody today after a GPS device is attached.