This time of year, Iowa drivers often find themselves dodging deer that dart into their path. South of Des Moines this morning, a larger obstacle appeared on the Interstate, as Highway Patrol spokesman Jim Saunders says a mobile home fell off a tractor-trailer on Interstate 35 at milemarker 45 near New Virginia. The home fell into the ditch about 8 A.M. The cleanup effort blocked traffic for nearly two hours. That section of interstate is now open.
Archives for October 2004
The mailbox bomber won’t be free for a long time. Back in early September doctors who’d examined and interviewed Luke Helder said he’s delusional and incompetent to stand trial. Helder’s accused of putting pipe bombs in rural mailboxes across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas, back in May 2002. Some of the bombs, which were rigged like booby-traps, went off…and injured four letter carriers and two Iowa women. Helder was arrested after a brief intensive search, and has been held ever since at a federal medical center — a prison hospital, in Rochester, Minnesota. Now a federal magistrate in Minneapolis has ruled that 23-year-old Lucas Helder is mentally ill and should be committed. Civil-rights regulations have made it harder to commit a patient for involuntary care but the judge noted Helder thinks he can leave his body and communicate with the public by mailbox bombings, and ruled he’d likely pose a risk to his own life or safety, or that of others, if he’s released.
A no-contest plea from a western Iowa man charged with three deaths. 19-year-old Stephen Halbert was at his familiy home in Carter Lake when police showed up with a warrant in his name. They who were looking for his uncle, who has the same name, but the teenage Halbert took off and fled the officers, allegedly going more than 80-Miles an hour in a stolen SUV he’d had parked at the house. He crossed into the city of Omaha where police say he turned off his headlights and ran a stop sign before he slammed into two motorcycles carrying three people. They all were killed. This week Halbert entered a plea of no contest in Douglas County District court. He’s to be sentenced December fifteenth.
The next appearance for Dustin Honken is likely to be in Indiana. A jury in federal court in Sioux City voted unanimously to sentence the convicted drug dealer to capital punishment in the deaths of two children — and the death sentence automatically triggers an appeal. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett said he’d postpone formal sentencing till Honken’s lawyers file motions, which may include requests for a retrial or even a mistrial, based on the statements of one juror who told the court her boss made remarks about letting the defendant die. That juror was replaced and the penalty phase of the trial re-started with an alternate. Honken’s likely to spend the time waiting for for his case to be reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. That’s the penitentiary where federal death-row inmates are usually held, and it’s also the prison where federal executions are carried out.
Vice President Dick Cheney campaigned in northwest Iowa yesterday with his wife by his side. About 500 people gathered in the Sioux City Convention Center last night to hear Cheney, who criticized democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as incapable of leading the war on terror. “I don’t think he can cut it. I think bottom line that he’s got record of weakness and a strategy of retreat in mind here,” Cheney said. Kerry has been criticizing the Bush Administration for failing to secure 380 tons of explosives in Iraq that are now missing. Cheney fired back last night. “John Kerry’s perfectly prepared to say virtually anything to try to get elected,” Cheney said. “As we get closer and closer to the election, we get more and more outrageous charges made that can’t be substantiated.” Cheney said the arms depot was likely empty when American troops even got there. But video shot by reporters from K-S-T-P television in Minneapolis who were embedded with troops who stopped at the depot on their way to Baghdad shows the troops looking through containers that experts say were the explosives international inspectors had warned the U.S. to guard. Cheney said last night that Saddam Hussein “moved this stuff out before the war even started.” Cheney said Kerry’s criticism is not warranted and meant to “advance his own political interests.”
The presidential candidates are trotting out famous faces in Iowa in a last-dash toward Election Day. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards was joined by some stars on an Indianola stage yesterday. Leonardo DiCaprio, star of films like “Titanic” and “Catch Me If You Can,” was the first star to stand on stage in the Simpson College gym. DiCaprio urged the students in the crowd to vote as only 36 percent of the under-30 crowd voted in the last presidential campaign.
“Imagine the collective power of nearly 40 million young voters like all of us here today. Imagine that power,” DiCaprio told the crowd. Then, Jon Bon Jovi powered up the amps and played a few songs for the crowd. Bon Jovi, too, urged the college students to vote.
“If you don’t think every vote counts, just remember four years ago what happened and how 500 votes made the difference in this country,” Bon Jovi said. “I hope that you’ll do me a favor and talk to your friends, those who may still be swing voters. Tell ’em how important it is to get out there and pull the lever on November 2nd.”
When John Edwards took the stage, he took President Bush’s backer Rudy Giuliani to task for saying yesterday that American soldiers bear “actual responsibility” for the disappearance of tons of explosives from Iraq.
“Rudy Giuliani is coming to Iowa, and I want you all to let him know what you think about his comments about our troops,” Edwards told the crowd in Indianola.
“You can tell him that our men and women in uniform, our military, they did their job. It was George Bush, the commander in chief, who didn’t do his job…And why did it take George Bush three days to finally say something about 380 tons of missing explosives? The whole world knew those explosives were there. They did nothing to secure them. What did George Bush have to say about this when he finally did say something? He said John Kerry’s not supporting our troops. What in the world is he talking about? Aren’t you sick and tired of George Bush and Dick Cheney using our troops as a shield to protect their jobs instead of actually protecting our troops?”
Giuliani issued a statement last night, saying his comments had been taken out of context. Today, Giuliani will campaign for Bush in Mason City. Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator and author, is scheduled to speak in Ames tonight, but she barred reporters from taping her remarks. Also today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson will campaign for President Bush in Cedar Falls and Dubuque.
This weekend, John Kerry will return for a rally in Des Moines, and he’ll be joined by Bon Jovi and Iowa native Ashton Kutcher, star of “That ’70s Show.” On Monday, President Bush will hold rallies in Des Moines and Sioux City.
The Iowa Attorney General and Secretary of State are reversing their position on counting the ballots of Iowans who show up at the wrong precinct. Attorney General Tom Miller had issued an opinion that voters who were in the wrong precinct should be given a provisional ballot under the new federal voting law — contrary to state law that says such votes should not count. Thursday, Miller changed that position based on three federal cases that upheld state laws in the face of the federal law. Miller says there is no time to pursue the Iowa issue in court to get a district court decision, an Iowa court decision and a Supreme Court decision before Tuesday’s election. Miller says with the lack of time — they’ll revert to Iowa’s law and tell Iowa’s county auditors to separate and not count the provisional ballots from people voting outside their precicnt. Miller says if there is an election contest, or the case is litigated in any way, he and the Secretary of State will argue that the votes be counted because they believe that to be the correct position. But, Miller says given the three court decisions, they believe segregating the provisional ballots is the right way to go. Secretary of State Chet Culver, who is also the state Commisioner of Elections, says this solves the problem before the election. Culver says he likes the decision because they can move on and give county auditors instructions on how to prepare for the elections, and at the same time they preserve the ballots. Culver says the issue has been overblown. “I think it’s important to put this whole question into its proper context. In the second largest county in the state, Linn County, in 2000 we had two people show up in the wrong precinct.” He says those two people were given provisional ballots that were not counted. There were a total of 6,000 provisional ballots in the state in 2000. Culver says most counted after it was confirmed that the voters were registered and in the right precinct. He has this advice for Iowans: voters should check their voter registration card to find their precinct. You can call 1-888-SOS-VOTE and find out where you’re supposed to vote. Culver says you can also call your county auditor. Culver says the number of provisional ballots will be announced after the election. He says a panel will go through the provisional ballots that’ve been set aside on the Thursday after the election. He says anyone can then challenge a decision on whether their ballot counts.
Police eastern Iowa are investigating two seperate cases of animal abuse and animal theft. Buchanan County authorities are investigating a case of animal neglect at a greyhound farm in Quasqeton. Inspectors from the state ag department reportedly contacted the county sheriff’s department about the alleged neglect. No other information is available. Three men are charged with stealing pigs after they were caught trying to sell the animals at a sale barn in Linn County. 30-year-old Kevin Towner, 52-year-old Dennis Albert both of Marshalltown and 34-year-old Christy Charlton of Albion, are accused of taking 18, 230 pound feeder pigs from Conrad in Grundy County Tuesday night. The three were caught delivering the pigs to the Walker Sale Barn for the weekly livestock auction. The pigs were valued at about two-thousand dollars. All three are charged with possession of stolen property. More charges are pending in Grundy County.
Police continue to make arrests in connection with a fatal shooting in Waterloo earlier this month. The latest suspect taken into custody is 26-year-old Shawn Washington of Waterloo. Officials arrested Washington on a charge of first-degree murder Wednesday night at a truck stop off Interstate-380 just east of Waterloo. He’s being held in the Black Hawk County Jail on one (m) million dollars bond. Washington is the sixth man charged in the shooting death of Thyanna Parsons, who was inside a Waterloo home that was sprayed with bullets during a party on October 10th. Parsons died when she was struck by a bullet. The other five suspects are also charged with first-degree murder. Waterloo police captain Bruce Arends says the case remains under investigation. He’s not sure if more arrests will be made in the case, but he says it is a possibly.
The democrat challenger for Iowa’s fourth district congressional seat has picked up the endorsement of the grandson of the man who started Pioneer Hybrid Seed and served as F-D-R’s Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President. Scott Wallace lives in Maryland, but he says he had a notion that his grandfather, Henry A. Wallace, wanted him to come back to Iowa and campaign for Democrats this week, including for Paul Johnson. “I sort of felt my grandfather calling to me and feeling that his voice ought to be heard in Iowa this week,” Scott Wallace says. Johnson was the chief of what now is the Natural Resources Conservation Service at the U-S Department of Agriculture in the mid 1990s and co- authored the state’s Groundwater Protection Act in 1987. Wallace says Johnson has many of the same visions for agriculture as his grandfather did. Wallace says it would be great to have Johnson represent Ames, a place where his grandfather grew up and went to college and worked with George Washington Carver. Wallace says Johnson, who served a stint in the Peace Corps, has the same kind of world view his grandfather did. Wallace also supports Johnson’s call for requiring more use of renewable fuels.Wallace says Johnson would take “fresh thinking” to Congress. Scott Wallace currently is the President of the Wallace Global Fund, an organization that he says promotes citizenry, fights injustice, and protects the diversity of nature. It was founded by the Wallace Family in 1995 and is currently funded by money from the sale of Pioneer Hi-Bred to DuPont for almost eight-Billion dollars in 1999.