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Polk County Attorney John Sarcone won't seek reelection

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Polk County’s long-serving top prosecutor, who has faced criticism for his decisions to charge a journalist and others in last year’s protests over racial inequality, has announced he will not run for reelection.

Television station KCCI first reported County Attorney John Sarcone’s announcement Wednesday that he will not seek a ninth term next year. Sarcone is a Democrat who has served as the county’s top prosecutor since 1991, but he has faced recent criticism for his prosecution of protesters and especially Des Moines Register journalist Andrea Sahouri.

Sarcone pursued misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts against Sahouri, who was pepper-sprayed and arrested while she covered a protest in May 2020. His effort drew widespread condemnation from advocates for a free press and human rights. Sahouri was acquitted in March.

Civil rights activists also criticized Sarcone for pursuing rarely used felony leak charges against two Black Lives Matter activists. Des Moines police had accused one activist, Alexandria Dea, of stealing a police bulletin being carried by officers that included suspects wanted for the destruction of a police car during a protest. The other activist, Viet Tran, shared the bulletin during a local television interview broadcast.

A judge dismissed the charge against Tran last month. Dea is still awaiting trial on the leak charge and other counts.

Sarcone said his decision not to run for reelection was driven by his desire to to spend more time with his 10 grandchildren.