Courts

Crime, Justice and Public Safety

Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio

The Linn County Attorney is calling for a grand jury investigation into the shooting of Jerime (Jeremy) Mitchell by Cedar Rapids police officer Lucas Jones.

Jerry Vander Sanden says he has reviewed materials supplied by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and determined it’s in the “public interest” for a grand jury to look into whether criminal charges are warranted.

Mitchell was left paralyzed by the shooting.

Vander Sanden says he is in the process of selecting the seven-person panel.

It takes votes from five jury members to return an indictment. 

James Carr/Flickr

The parents of an Iowa man who drowned while in custody of the Missouri Highway Patrol will receive a $9 million settlement.

On May 31, 2014, 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson was on a weekend trip to the Lake of Ozarks in Missouri, when he was taken into custody under suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

Officer Anthony Piercy hand cuffed Ellingson and took him aboard his patrol boat. At some point Ellingson fell overboard and drowned.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

A couple is asking the Iowa Supreme Court to allow them to sue Fort Dodge Community Hospital for the costs of their son’s past, present and future care. Pamela and Jeremy Plowman say because doctors failed to diagnose abnormalities of their fetus, the couple lacked the necessary information to consider abortion.

The hospital argues since it didn’t cause the child's congenital defects, it’s not responsible for his care. Additionally, the Fort Dodge Community Hospital contends that in Iowa, parents can't sue just because a child is born.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Local and regional chapters of the NAACP hosted the Fourth Annual Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities Friday in Ankeny. The gathering comes one year after a governor appointed working group made recommendations on criminal justice policy reform. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Sole

Jason Sole is a former gang member and three-time convicted felon turned community educator. He now works on reducing recidivism and bringing attention to the racial and economic disparities that lead to mass incarceration.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

An Urbandale man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two central Iowa police officers. Scott Michael Greene is accused of killing Des Moines Sgt. Anthony "Tony" Beminio and Officer Justin Martin of the Urbandale Police Department, in separate ambush-style attacks early Wednesday morning. 

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert calls Greene "a monster" and says there’s no way to make reason of the officers' deaths.

"This was calculated murder," says Wingert. "It was cowardly from the way it was carried out to the way it was ended." 

FLICKR / JIMMY EMERSON, DVM

The former city clerk of Casey, Iowa was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for mail fraud and the arson of a community building.

Flickr / Katy Warner

A Muscatine woman argued at the Iowa Supreme Court that since the employment of immigrants is regulated by the federal government, she’s protected from state identity theft charges. How the high court rules has significant implications for Iowa's undocumented immigrant community. 

In 1997, 11-year-old Martha Martinez came to the US as an undocumented immigrant. In 2014 she was charged with using a fake identity to gain employment.

FLICKR / THEUPSSTOREHUNTINGTONBEACH

Three California women suspected of attempting to scam Iowa libraries and businesses are now barred from operating in Iowa. If Brittany Hertsch, her half-sister Krystle Lester or their aunt Sandra Steinmetz are found to be marketing copier or printer toner, office supplies or other merchandise in Iowa they could face criminal charges. 

Sarah Boden/IPR File

A staffer from Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign is headed to prison for his role in a conspiracy that falsified Federal Election Commission reports. Unlike his two co-defendants who only got probation, Dimitri Kesari will serve three months behind bars.

At the sentencing hearing, federal Judge John Jarvey described Ron Paul's former deputy campaign manager as the scheme's "architect.” He noted that Kesari went to considerable lengths to conceal payments to a state senator in exchange for him leaving the Michele Bachmann campaign and endorsing Ron Paul. 

Sarah Boden/IPR

Two staffers from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were sentenced Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Des Moines. Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton and Campaign Manger John Tate will each serve two years of probation and pay a $10,000 fine.

In May the men and a third staffer, Deputy Campaign Manger Demitri Kesari, were convicted of conspiring to create and submit false campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission. 

Tate, Benton and their wives appeared emotional and relieved upon hearing the sentences.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

The City of Des Moines’s water utility is trying to sue 10 drainage districts in northwest Iowa in federal court, accusing the districts of polluting the Raccoon River. But first, Des Moines Water Works must convince the state Supreme Court that drainage districts can be held liable.

The drainage districts assert that for over a century, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that they can’t be sued for a civil wrong due to their limited authority. Attorney Michael Reck told the court during oral arguments Wednesday that it should stand by its previous rulings.

CLAY MASTERS/IPR FILE

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Corn Growers Association are offering to pay the legal costs in a lawsuit that names three northwest Iowa counties.  Des Moines Water Works alleges that farm runoff from drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties has caused exceedingly high nitrate levels in the city's water supply. 

Craig Hill is president of the Farm Bureau. He says the counties have been unfairly singled out in the Water Works lawsuit.

Flickr / Leonieke Aalders

The Iowa State Bar Association is recommending that voters retain all 63 Iowa judges and the three state supreme court justices who are facing judicial retention elections this November. The ISBA is basing this recommendation on the 2016 Judicial Performance Review survey. 

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Attorney General Office argued Friday at the state Supreme Court that justices should overturn a ruling from six years ago. 

In Iowa, when someone is arrested, law enforcement have 45 days to press charges. Back in December 2010, the court ruled six-to-one in State v. Wing, that when a person reasonably believes they are under arrest, law enforcement must still adhere to the 45-day deadline. That's even if an individual isn't actually under arrest. 

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

It was déjà vu at the Iowa Supreme Court, which held the first oral arguments of its 2016-17 term today. Justices heard a drunken-boating case for the second time as a result of a U.S Supreme Court ruling from June.

That federal ruling found that law enforcement can arrest drivers who don't submit to breathalyzer tests, but also determined blood tests to be unconstitutional. The Iowa case concerns breath-sobriety testing and drunken boating.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court has released its first opinions of the 2016-17 term. Both deal with attorney discipline. 

Michael Reilly is now again able to practice law in Iowa. Reilly lost his license 10 years ago for depositing client funds into his personal bank account to supplement a gambling addiction.

Flickr / TheUPSStoreHuntingtonBeach

At least 15 public libraries in Iowa have been targeted by a toner pirate scam this year. That’s according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against three Orange County, California-based businesses Thursday.

The supposed scam came to light thanks to Cate St. Clair, an attorney by training and library director by trade. When Robey Memorial Library in Waukon received a mysterious bill for about $400 for toner, St. Clair called the number printed on the invoice.

Dakota Access LLC

A pipeline company says a group of landowners challenging its use of eminent domain was too late in filing a motion asking the Polk County District County to temporarily stop pipeline construction. Therefore, Dakota Access LLC says the landowners’ motion should be tossed.

Dakota Access

A group of landowners will ask the District Court in Polk County this afternoon to stop the Dakota Access pipeline from beginning construction on their properties. They aim to hold off the condemnation of their lands until they have their day in court to challenge the company’s use of eminent domain.

John Pemble/IPR file

Judges and justices often make unpopular decisions, and these decisions may come back to haunt them come election season.

For Supreme Court justices in Iowa, that’s every eight years. And this November, Chief Justice Mark Cady, along with Justices Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel will be on the ballot.

Voters will not be asked to choose between the current justices and a challenger; rather with a retention election, voters are simply asked if each justice should keep his or her job.

But, many dislike Iowa’s judicial retention system.

IOLTA / Office of Professional Regulation, Iowa Judicial Branch

Nearly $240,000 in grants will be given to 14 Iowa legal non-profits that assist low-income people. This funding comes from the state's Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account program, which has suffered extreme decreases over the past decade.

So while this year's grants total $28,000 more than what was distributed in 2015-16, the funding is still less than what some legal service organizations say they need. 

AUSTIN KIRK/FLICKR

The three-month prison sentences for two egg-industry executives has been upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Last year, Jack DeCoster and his son Peter both pleaded guilty to negligence in relation to insanitary conditions at Quality Egg's Iowa-based  facilities. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as a result of these conditions, a salmonella outbreak sickened perhaps as many as 56,000 people.

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

The much anticipated ruling on felon voting from the Iowa Supreme Court will be released Thursday morning.

Iowa has one of the most restrictive felon voting policies in the nation.

It is one of three states that permanently disenfranchises someone if they commit a felony. 

That’s because Iowa’s constitution states anyone convicted of an infamous crime forever loses the right to vote. So what’s an infamous crime? The Iowa Supreme Court will likely tell us.  

Wikimedia Commons

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of the biggest cases on abortion in a quarter century. The court also issued several other rulings, including a case about affirmative action in college admissions, and another regarding when people convicted of domestic violence can own a gun. What does it all mean for you, and how will these cases reverberate around Iowa and around the nation?

The Iowa Supreme Court was unable to decide Friday when someone is entitled to counsel, though a drunk driver's conviction stands. A three-three-one ruling from the high court leaves the door open for future constitutional challenges. 

In September 2014, 29-year-old John A. Senn was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Des Moines on Court Avenue. Senn was taken to the Des Moines police station where he refused to take a breathalyzer test until he spoke with his attorney.

A New Jersey man and his companies have agreed to pay $45,000 to the state of Iowa in the settlement of an alleged psychic mail scam.

Timothy Clements owns both TCA Mailing Inc. and T. Clements & Associates Inc. The state of Iowa suspects these companies marketed to and billed at least one Iowan in a psychic services scam.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

A person in Iowa can’t be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if they lose their job because they’re in jail. That's according to a four-to-three decision from the state's supreme court.

In late 2013 medical assistant Sondra Irving of North Liberty spent nearly four weeks in jail, unable to post a bail of $17,500.

The charges were later dropped, but because Irving had been incarcerated for so long, she’d lost her job at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Sen. Chuck Grassley and a bi-partisan group of senators are calling on Congress to pass legislation that reforms the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted in the military. 

The Military Justice Improvement Act would strip the decision of whether a serious crime goes to trial from the chain of command, and place it with trained military prosecutors.

Grassley says it’s clear the Defense Department can’t be trusted to prosecute cases, in light of new information that shows the Pentagon deceived Congress on how military sexual assaults are handled.

New reforms to Iowa sentencing code in the areas of child endangerment, non-violent drug offense, and robbery were signed into law on Thursday. Gov. Terry Branstad calls the legislation "a balanced approach" aimed at making Iowa’s criminal justice system more equitable.

Child Endangerment

People convicted of child endangerment resulting in death in Iowa now must serve 30 to 70 percent of their sentence before they can be paroled. Though the crime has the sentence of 50 years, offenders have been immediately eligible for parole.

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