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Seeking justice through social media: 'We are pleading for people to come and fill the courtroom'

“We want it peaceful, but we want to make an impacts that this is unacceptable.”

Posted: Feb. 16, 2018 7:48 PM
Updated: Feb. 18, 2018 9:23 AM

KIMT News 3- After a Mason City woman agreed the evidence against her was strong enough to find her guilty of child endangerment; social media was flooded with comments and disbelief that Tawney Symonds received five years’ probation for her crime.
In an effort to prevent a similar sentence from being handed down in their case, one family is turning to social media.
“She’s afraid, she is frightened, she cries at the drop of a hat,” said the grandmother of the victim.
The grandmother and mother of the victim are speaking out about the difficulty of the case against Dean Hilpipre, saying the justice system failed the victim.
“They’re being too lenient,” said the mother. “This is not acceptable because five years probation and no contact is a piece of paper.”
The two have started a Facebook page as well as putting up posters around the Alden-Iowa Falls area to rally as many people as they can to come to the sentencing hearing on Feb. 23 as a way to sway the judge.
“We are pleading for people to come and fill the courtroom,” said the grandmother. “We want it peaceful, but we want to make an impact that this is unacceptable.”
But those with the Assistant Attorney General’s Office say people need to understand these cases are much more complicated than people think.
“We have had to come forward with evidence that is sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt to convince 12 jurors unanimously that she is guilty,” said Scott Brown, Special Assistant Attorney General.
Brown assisted the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s Office in the recent Tawney Symonds case where Symonds entered an Alford plea and received a five-year probation sentence, a punishment that has stirred up controversy on social media. Brown believes that could do more harm than good.
“It’s unfortunate because they are continuing to communicate information that is simply not true or not accurate,” Brown said. “It is inflammatory, and frankly, it’s damaging to the mother and parents of the victim.”
But those seeking justice for young victims say their efforts have sparked more support than they ever could have imagined.
“It will show him that we, as a state, as a country, are willing to rally behind a victim and show our support,” said the grandmother.

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