Joe Connolly, charged in 4 boys' deaths, asks for lower bond - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Joe Connolly, charged in 4 boys' deaths, asks for lower bond

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Joseph Connolly, 24, of Holy Cross Joseph Connolly, 24, of Holy Cross

Joe Connolly, the man charged in the early August crash that killed four Dubuque County boys, was in court Monday for his bond review hearing.

The in-person appearance was Connolly's first since his arrest earlier this month.

For his initial appearance, the 24-year-old was at the Dubuque County Jail and showed up in court via closed-circuit TV.

Connolly's bond is currently set at $500,000 cash.

The defendant, who is from rural Holy Cross in Dubuque County, faces four counts of vehicular homicide by operating while intoxicated.

Dubuque County prosecutors are also charging him with four counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving, one count of serious injury by operating while intoxicated, one count of serious injury by reckless driving and failure to stop for a stop sign.

This all stems from a fatal crash on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 2, when Connolly -- driving a pickup truck hauling a horse trailer -- crashed into a John Deere Gator carrying four 14-year-old boys.

All of the boys died, and one of Connolly's two passengers was seriously injured. That was at the intersection of Hartbecke and East Pleasant Grove roads in Dubuque County.

The four boys were Sean Kenneally, Mitchell Kluesner, Nicholas Kramer and Bryce Wilwert. All of them would have been freshmen this year at Western Dubuque High School.

The purpose of a bond review hearing is to determine whether the defendant is a flight risk and continued danger to the community. The judge uses information presented by both sides to determine whether to lower the defendant's bond.

Connolly's attorney, Mark Roeder, asked Judge Todd Geer to reduce Connolly's bond to $50,000, with a requirement to pay just 10 percent to get out of jail.

Roeder argued Monday morning his client is neither a flight risk nor a continued danger to the community, as Connolly has lived his whole life in rural Dubuque County and has many family members in the area.

"After the arrest warrant was issued and he found out about it, he did not flee," Roeder told the judge. "Instead, he voluntarily presented himself at the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office and surrendered himself there."

Roeder called to the witness stand a man who said Connolly, if the young man were able to post bond, would have employment with him as a laborer. Roeder also said a number of Connolly's family members have stepped forward, offering to house and supervise Connolly, making sure he neither drives nor drinks alcohol.

Conditions of a lowered bond, Roeder said, could include close supervision of Connolly, as well as a curfew and requirement the 24-year-old wear a bracelet that monitors and wirelessly reports his alcohol level. Connolly would also be barred from drinking any alcohol.

"This was an accident. It was not an intentional homicide case," Roeder added. "There are explanations for what caused this accident apart from intoxication, and I think it's worth noting that Mr. Connolly did not test over the limit."

An application for a search warrant on the day of the crash lists reasons why officials suspected Connolly may have been intoxicated at the time of the incident. Connolly's blood alcohol level was not tested until nearly five hours after the crash.

Dubuque County assistant prosecutor Alisha Stach then made her case for why the bond should remain at $500,000 cash. She pointed out this is not the 24-year-old's first charge related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, so she said he does pose a continued threat to the community.

"Given the fact that, in this particular case, there are four dead children and one person who is seriously injured in this case, his pledge to the court that now he would not be a danger to the community isn't held up, by the fact that he was charged with these charges," Stach said.

She also said she considers Connolly a flight risk, given the number and severity of the charges he now faces.

"Mr. Connolly's already been screened by the Department of Corrections to determine whether he's appropriate for pre-trial release," Stach told the judge. "As you can see from their report, they indicate that he is not appropriate for release, and we ask that the bond's that's currently in effect remain in effect."

She did not call any witnesses to the stand.

Judge Geer said he would take the matter under advisement and have a decision within three to four days.

The courtroom was packed with family members on both sides of the tragedy. One man said he is a family member to both Connolly and one of the boys who died, though the man declined to comment further.

Connolly appeared morose throughout the entire hearing.

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