Former UI FIJI chapter members file for a change of venue in reported sexual assault case

Lawyers for former members of the UI’s Phi Gamma Delta, known as FIJI, filed a motion to change the trial’s location on April 12 arguing that the vast public knowledge of the case hindered the defendant’s right to a fair trial.


Rachel Wagner

The Phi Gamma Delta house is seen on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

Lawyers representing former University of Iowa students Carson Steffen, Jacob Meloan, and the UI chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity filed a motion this month to change the location of the sexual assault trial brought by UI student Makéna Solberg, because of detailed media coverage of the case. 

In a motion filed with the Johnson County District Court on April 12, attorneys representing the fraternity and its former members argued that detailed media coverage of the police investigation and the civil suit will hinder the former student’s right to a fair trial in Johnson County. 

According to court documents, the defense alleged that the news coverage surrounding the allegations by Solberg has been “pervasive and inflammatory,” swaying the public against the defendants in the case. 

“The narrative on social media, online petitions, social media, and other various platforms have given Johnson County residents one side of the story (Solberg’s) and significantly prejudiced Defendants,” the defense wrote in the motion filed with the Johnson County District Court.

The defense also filed an unchallenged motion for a continuance to gather more information and work through further pre-trial steps before the trial originally scheduled for July 11. The parties will meet on April 27 to redetermine deadlines for the case. 

The lawsuit brought by Solberg reported that the two fraternity members sexually assaulted her at a September 2020 party at the FIJI house. 

When news of the reported assault became public in August 2021, protests near the UI broke out in response to calls for removing Phi Gamma Delta from campus. The protestors caused damage to the house when some individuals broke windows, broke down a door, spray painted the house, and overturned cars.

Court documents report the two men engaged in sexual activity with Solberg without her consent, stating that Steffen and Meloan assaulted Solberg while she was in an intoxicated, physically impaired, and physically vulnerable state. 

It is also reported that the men recorded the incident without Solberg’s consent and that the men shared videos and photographs of the assault with other members of the fraternity using a group chat.

Alejandro Rojas contributed to this report.