Attorneys for former Iowa Hillel director request new trial on sexual abuse charges

The sentencing hearing for David Weltman, who was found guilty of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy, has been rescheduled for June because of COVID-19. Weltman has also requested a new trial.


David Weltman stands as the jury enters the courtroom during his trial at the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Weltman is accused of sexually abusing a then 9-year-old boy during a Hebrew lesson at Iowa Hillel, where Weltman was the director of the student Jewish organization. (Pool Photo, Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Kayli Reese, Cops & Courts Editor

Attorneys for David Weltman — the former Iowa Hillel director who a jury found guilty of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy during Hebrew lessons in 2019 — are requesting a new trial, arguing that he did not receive a fair and impartial trial because of testimony regarding his interactions with the victim.

The defense filed a motion to arrest the court’s judgment and give Weltman a new trial, stating that testimony regarding a trip Weltman took to Israel with the victim and the victim’s family should not have been included in his March 3-5 trial. This evidence provided “improper character evidence, specifically evidence of prior acts, that should have been excluded,” the attorneys argue in the documents filed April 17.

The defense also said the state “engaged in prejudicial misconduct” during the trial when Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith gave personal belief in the victim’s testimony during closing statements.

Additionally, the defense argued that Weltman’s guilty verdict goes against the evidence presented during the trial. The victim thought Weltman touched him accidentally during the Hebrew lesson in question, documents said, and only later did the victim think the incident was inappropriate.

Sixth District Judge Chad Kepros ordered that the matter of a new trial be discussed during a sentencing hearing set for 2 p.m. June 12 at the Johnson County Courthouse. Kepros on Tuesday ordered that the sentencing, originally scheduled for April 27, be rescheduled because of safety concerns amid the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

RELATED: Former Iowa Hillel Director David Weltman found guilty of sexual abuse

Weltman was charged Aug. 29, 2019 with second-degree sexual abuse after being accused of touching the victim under his pants sometimes in February or March of 2019. A jury unanimously found Weltman guilty at his trial March 5.

The state filed documents asking for the sentencing delay after the Iowa Supreme Court ordered that all in-person courtroom proceedings be postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s request asked the court to move the sentencing hearing so the victim or a representative for the victim could read a victim impact statement.

The defense filed a resistance to the state’s request to move the hearing, stating that the hearing could still be done via videoconference or telephone instead. Holding a hearing virtually is allowed under the Iowa Supreme Court’s order as long as the party in question gives consent, the defense’s documents read.

However, documents Kepros filed said the Iowa Supreme Court’s order is unclear if victims who wish to give a victim impact statement can consent to a virtual court proceeding.

Kepros’ document also said members of the press have a right to be physically present during Weltman’s sentencing, as expanded media coverage was granted in Weltman’s case. Members of the press could also participate by videoconference or telephone in the sentencing hearing, Kepros said in the documents, but increasing the amount of participants makes it difficult to conduct the hearing.

The Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services also has been unable to conduct a pre-sentence investigation because Weltman has “failed to cooperate,” documents read. The court has not received a response from the defense if Weltman would be cooperating with the investigation.