Man accused of splashing King wants trial moved

Attorney cites pre-trial publicity, social media comments as reasoning

Blake Gibbins

FORT DODGE – An attorney for the man accused of splashing U.S. Rep. Steve King with water at a restaurant last month has filed a motion to move the trial outside of the Fourth Congressional District.

Blake Gibbins, 26, of Lafayette, Colorado, has been charged with two counts of assault and one count of disorderly conduct, all simple misdemeanors.

He’s accused of throwing a glass of water at King, a Republican from Kiron, while the congressman was having lunch at Mineral City Mill & Grill, 2621 Fifth Ave. S., on March 22.

Gibbins allegedly approached King’s table at the restaurant, asked about King’s identity, and then threw a glass of water on him. King was splashed, as were others sitting at the table.

Gibbins has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Monday, Gibbins’ attorney, Paul Statler, of Des Moines, filed the motion for a change of venue.

In his motion, Statler called pre-trial publicity of the case “extensive” and also said “the public response has been inflammatory and prejudicial to Gibbins.”

Statler quoted some of the social media comments about the case, including one that said “crap like this shouldn’t happen now (sic) matter what your party affiliation…made FD look like trash.”

Additionally, Statler said in his motion that King’s reactions to social media posts on the case should warrant a change of venue.

As an example, Statler said King shared a Twitter post made by conservative political commentator Michelle Malkin that said “A thug attacked Steven King and @gofundme is allowing funds to be raised for him on its site…while banning conservatives, vaccine critics & anti-sharia protestors.”

That tweet, according to Statler, has more than 4,100 likes and 310 comments, including one that said “[h]ope someday Blake Gibbons (sic) gets to experience the art of being waterboarded.”

“…the very visible, inflammatory comments that accompany these online news stories and social media posts that are seen by a large percentage of the citizens of Webster County only add to the prejudice Gibbons faces,” Statler wrote in the motion.

Statler also said that King has made public comments about the incident to the media.

“Based upon witness Steven King’s longstanding political support and prominence in the Fourth Congressional District of Iowa and public condemnation of Defendant, Defendant requests a venue outside of the Fourth Congressional District,” Statler wrote.

On Wednesday, Webster County Attorney Darren Driscoll filed a motion objecting to the change of venue.

A hearing on the change of venue motion has not yet been scheduled.

Gibbins has demanded a jury trial, and it had been scheduled for April 30. However, Statler filed a motion saying that he has a conflict with that date and that the trial will have to be rescheduled. A new trial date has not yet been set.