Danker’s trial reset to December in Johnson County

Karina Cooper’s first degree murder trial still set for July

Huston William Danker booking photo.

Telegraph note: Since this story went to press, Karina Cooper has waived her right to a speedy trial, again, and asked the court for both her pretrial conference scheduled for next week and next month’s 10-day jury trial be continued 60 days or more.

TOLEDO – As anticipated, Huston William Danker’s first degree murder trial has been moved to Johnson County.

Last week Friday, Chief Judge Lars G. Anderson responded to a change of venue motion filed by Danker on June 6 – a motion the State filed a response to on June 7 stating they had “no resistance” to such a move out of Tama County.

As part of his filing, Judge Anderson ordered Danker’s trial be transferred to Johnson County. Judge Anderson further ordered the trial to begin on Dec. 17, 2024, at 9 a.m. The trial had been originally set to begin in Tama County on Nov. 4, 2024.

On April 29 of this year, Danker, 26, was arrested in Cedar Rapids by the Tama County Sheriff’s Office and charged later that day with first degree murder for acting “in concert with Karina Cooper to kill Ryan Cooper.” Danker pleaded not guilty to the single Class A felony charge on May 16 while also waiving his right to a speedy trial.

A screengrab from a case management conference held last week Thursday, June 13, by video conference as part of Karina Cooper’s first degree murder trial which, as of press time, is still set to begin July 9, 2024, in Linn County. Pictured clockwise beginning bottom left, Karina Cooper, Chief Judge Lars G. Anderson, the court reporter, Attorney Nichole Watt with the Waterloo Public Defender’s Office, and Assistant Attorney General Michael Ringle for the State.

Ryan Cooper was murdered in his rural Traer home as a result of two gunshot wounds to the face in July of 2021. Ryan Cooper’s wife, Karina Sue Cooper, now 47, was arrested and charged this past February with first degree murder. She has pleaded not guilty and is currently awaiting a 10-day jury trial in Linn County which is set to begin next month on July 9.

Karina Cooper and Danker remain behind bars at the Tama County Jail in Toledo; both are being held on $1 million bond.

Karina Cooper trial update

Last Thursday, a case management conference was held in Tama County District Court by Zoom as part of Karina Cooper’s first degree murder trial; Cooper appeared in custody from the Tama County Jail by video conference.

The entire hearing lasted less than seven minutes with Judge Anderson presiding.

Attorney Nichole Watt with the Waterloo Public Defender’s Office appeared for the defense, while Assistant Attorney General Michael Ringle appeared on behalf of the State.

Judge Anderson began the conference by asking for an update by either party as to whether the trial would remain as set with a start date of July 9 or be moved to another date.

“Well, I don’t want to move [the trial] yet,” Watt responded. “I’m just waiting on some discovery that I’d like to see and that would dictate whether or not we’re going to move it. And I’m told it’s coming soon.”

Judge Anderson asked for an explanation as to what additional discovery Watt was referencing.

“[A]s the Court can probably surmise, there is a substantial amount of new evidence and information that’s been uncovered recently that led to additional work on the part of law enforcement,” Ringle replied in reference to Danker’s arrest in late April. At least five cell phones were interrogated as a result of Danker’s arrest, Ringle further stated before adding, “[S]ometimes certain phones take longer to open and access than others and so I think there’s just been a delay in attempting to access one of those phones.”

Ringle told the judge approximately one terabyte of phone and other electronic data as well as a “substantial amount” of bank documents and other records had already been released to Karina Cooper’s attorneys by law enforcement.

“I’m going to leave the trial as set for [July] 9,” Judge Anderson said. “Maybe I’ll schedule a case management conference for the week before [the trial] … see where we’re at. But obviously I would hope that prior to that point you folks would have made some progress on whatever discovery issues there are.”

Judge Anderson then asked if there were depositions still outstanding that might necessitate a delay in the trial.

“We’ve been trying to schedule more depositions. We have not yet,” Watt replied before later stating, “My belief is we’ll likely be asking to continue the case.”

On Friday, Judge Anderson scheduled an additional case management conference for Thursday, June 27.

As of press time, Karina Cooper’s 10-day jury trial is still set to begin next month in Cedar Rapids.