Imprisonment for Iowa Face Mask Fight Raises Questions About Mandatory Minimums

A Des Moines man accused of starting a fight after facing improperly wearing his face mask has been convicted of a felony and faces a mandatory 10-year prison term, as first reported by Iowa Capital Dispatch .

Why it matters: The case begs the question of whether punishment is appropriate for the crime and could result in legislative action, Bob Rigg, a law professor at Drake University, told Axios.

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  • There have been national calls to reform mandatory minimum prison sentences for years, including in Iowa.

What happened: Shane Michael, 42, followed Mark Denning out after a verbal exchange of views about Michael’s improper mask-wearing at a DSM Vision 4 Less store in November, according to the court’s testimony.

  • Michael then allegedly attacked, spat and coughed on Denning, shouting, “If I have it, you have it.”

  • Denning said Michael poked him in the eye and nodded his groin. He also said he nearly lost the eye, but a doctor stated he will make a full recovery.

The aftermath: Michael turned down a plea deal and was convicted this month of assault and physical injury, which has served a mandatory decade in prison in Iowa.

  • The deal would also have wiped the case off its record after two years of probation. “He took a big risk by taking this to the jury,” said Rigg.

  • Michael will likely be eligible for a parole hearing within a year and could be released early, Rigg added.

What’s next: Sentencing is set for May 11.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter and faster on the most consistent news unfolding in their own backyard.

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