The Dallas County Attorney’s Office has asked Judge Virginia Cobb to recuse herself from the criminal case against Sonya Heitshusen for reckless use of a firearm because the judge’s niece is a volunteer for Heitshusen’s campaign.
According to the County Attorney’s Office, the niece’s role in the Heitshusen campaign creates a conflict of interest for which the judge’s impartiality might be reasonably questioned. The attorneys have therefore asked Judge Cobb to remove herself from the case, but Heitshusen is fighting to keep her on.
As first reported by Iowa Field Report, Heitshusen—who also serves the public information office for State Auditor Rob Sand—was arrested this summer after she fired a handgun into her sliding glass door, sending the bullet across a busy city road. The report notes that Heitshusen had been drinking.
Heitshusen pled not guilty, claiming that the prosecution against her was politically motivated. She admitted, though, that she fired the gun into the door but claims she shouldn’t be held responsible.
The case was originally set to go to trial before the election, but Heitshusen asked to reset the trial date until after voters have gone to the polls on November 8. According to court records, there are recordings of Heitshusen discussing the incident, but those are being kept confidential until the trial. As a result, Iowans won’t know until next year what Heitshusen said to the police or what other admissions she made when they interviewed her.
Judge Cobb has scheduled a hearing on the recusal request for October 18, but Heitshusen is asking the court to reschedule the hearing for November 10, two days after the election.
According to Heitshusen’s filings, “the defendant [Heitshusen] mistakenly suggested November 3, 2022, but meant to request the following Thursday, November 10, 2022.
Rob Sand, who continues to employ Heitshusen as his public information officer, has not commented on Heitshusen’s arrest.