August 29, 2014

Eastern Iowa veteran given probation on weapons charge

A former member of the military from eastern Iowa who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq was sentenced to five years of probation on a weapons charge. Thirty-one-year-old Matthew James Stover of Cedar Rapids pled guilty in November to one count of possessing a semiautomatic assault rifle and ammunition as an unlawful drug user.

Marion police found the weapon and ammunition after Stover purchased marijuana in a park in Marion and they obtained a search warrant. Information from the U.S. Attorney’s office says Stover will be required to undergo continued mental health treatment, to abstain from alcohol or drugs, undergo remote alcohol testing, and not being permitted in the unsupervised presence of a child under the age of 12, including his minor daughter. He could have faced 30 to 37 months in prison.

The judge noted Stover has been diagnosed as suffering from several mental health conditions, including PTSD. Judge Linda Reade said Stover has performed well under pre-trial treatment and supervision, and noted this was not a “run of the mill case.”

The judge indicated a reluctance to interfere with Stover’s mental health treatment he’s been getting from the VA for about the past year. She noted Stover got a job with the VA and has been fully compliant with the conditions of treatment for the past year. She did say any violation of the parole terms could lead to prison time.


DOT getting closer to decision on traffic cameras

The Iowa Department of Transportation is in the final phase of determining if traffic cameras in six cities meet the requirements of new state rules that began in February. DOT director of traffic and safety Steve Gent says they have finished the review of the reports required of the cities and they still have some questions.

There’s an issue with the speed cameras in I-380 in Cedar Rapids. “At this point we really just need to gather more information. There appears to possibly be an issue in Cedar Rapids that we need to be dealing with and that came about by looking at their review,” Gent says. “That’s probably the one that’s the biggest concern right at the moment.” He says they want more information on whether the speed cameras on I-380 are located within 1,000 feet of a lower speed limit.

Gent says they also had an issue with the Sioux City report. “Sioux City did not provide us before crash data. Anytime you are looking at a safety enhancement, you always look at the crashes before the enhancement was put into place and then crashes afterward,” Gent says. “And of course that was required by the rule and I am not sure why they didn’t submit that. We need more information.”

Other questions involved the before and after crash data for two cameras in Davenport, questions about crashes and violations for each intersection in Muscatine, and concerns raised about the number of red-light violations for an intersection in Des Moines.

Gent says the rules are designed to be sure the cameras are used on state controlled roadways to enhance safety. and that’s what they are trying to determine in the review. “These traffic cameras are okay as long as they are absolutely — and people have to believe that — they are for safety. If people believe that they are a money-making scheme, then that’s a terrible situation. That’s not about what our government is supposed to do,” Gent says.

He hopes to wrap up the issue before the end of the year to determine if all the cameras are in compliance. “The emails were sent out last week for more information and we asked for that information back within a month,” Gent says. “Certainly by the end of the year we will have all of these resolved. When we have issues, we are going to sit down with the cities and make sure we understand all the issues and that they understand all the issues, and we will work together on coming to a resolution.”

Other cities had cameras on state roads, but decided to make changes. Clive decided to shut down its cameras in June. Windsor Heights and Fort Dodge decided to only place their speed cameras on local roadways, which are not covered by DOT rules.


Osage man quickly collects Powerball prize

Duane Hanson

Duane Hanson

A northern Iowa man who won a $2 million Powerball prize in Wednesday’s drawing picked up the prize at Iowa Lottery headquarters in Des Moines.

Fifty-eight-year-old Duane Hanson of Osage says he checked the ticket this morning. He says he called the Iowa Lottery phone line and found out he had five numbers right and then checked his computer and found out he’d won two million dollars.

Hanson then got his daughter and went in and swiped the ticket on the self-checking machine at the Casey’s store where he bought the ticket and confirmed it was a winner.

Hanson left straight from Osage to Des Moines after calling work and telling them he had won. He didn’t tell the store he had a winning ticket and expects to hear from a lot of people after he returns. “I’m thinking my phone will probably be blowing up probably,” Hanson said and laughed. “Probably find out I have a lot more friends than I thought I did.”

He will take home $1.4 million after paying $500,000 in federal and $100,000 in state taxes.

Hanson works for the Cedar River Railroad in Waterloo and doesn’t yet have any major plans for the money. “I’m not sure right now. I can retire in a year and I always planned on buying an acreage when I retired . So maybe I will buy an acreage a little quicker I guess,” Hanson says. “Other than that, I am just going to save it and then decide what I want to do I guess.”

The numbers drawn were 17-24-26-45-46, with the Powerball number being 19. Nobody won the jackpot in last night’s drawing, so the big prize will go up to an estimated $90 million for Saturday’s drawing.


Settlement reached to allow Tyson to purchase Hillshire Brands

Tyson Foods has agreed to some conditions to allow it to proceed with its $8.5 billion acquisition of the Hillshire Brands Company. Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, says the conditions are part of a settlement proposed by the Justice Department and three states that filed suit to block the acquisition.

“The agreement that we have proposed allows Tyson to proceed with the acquisition of Hillshire — but (Tyson) has to sell off Heinold Hog Markets, which operates a couple of facilities here in Iowa and also operates facilities in six other states across the midwest,” Greenwood explains.

Heinold buys sows from farmers, sorts the livestock at buying stations, and resells and trucks the sows to sausage processors, including Hillshire. Hillshire buys sows directly from farmers, which it then processes into sausage sold under the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands. “Our concern was that one company would have too much of a role in the sale of sows, and that could affect prices for hog farmers,” Greenwood says. He says Tyson would have at least a third of the sow market through this acquisition.

Greenwood says the settlement needs final approval before things move ahead. “A federal judge has to take a look at it, and we hope the judge will sign off on that,” Greenwood says. “Assuming the judge does sign off on it, that clears the way for the sale of Heinold Hog Markets, and it clears the way for the consolidation of the companies.

Tyson Foods is a Delaware corporation and one of the world’s largest meat companies with its principal place of business in Springdale, Arkansas. The Hillshire Brands Company is a Maryland corporation with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois. Hillshire is a manufacturer and marketer of brand name food products for the retail and food service markets, including sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats. Its brand names include Jimmy Dean, Ball Park and Hillshire Farm.


Bellvue man sentenced to federal prison on gun charges

A Bellvue man will serve nearly 20 years in prison on illegal weapons charges. Forty-eight-year-old Terrance Kilburg pled guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and one count of possessing a weapon that is required to be registered.

Kilburg admitted to being a felon and possessing 15 guns and various types of ammunition. Two of the weapons were sawed-off shotguns. He also admitted to allowing another person to manufacture meth on his property. Kilburg fled while on release pending his sentencing and was eventually caught in Michigan. He was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison.

Supreme Court will now decide if bar exam is a safeguard or not needed

The Iowa Supreme Court heard several hours of presentations from both sides over a proposal to allow students who graduate from the two laws schools in the state to immediately start practicing without taking the state bar exam.

District Court Judge, Jim Elleffson, was asked how the so-called “diploma privilege” would impact the quality of lawyers based the bar exams he’s administered. “Qualitatively, to let some of the folks out who have given some of the answers that I have seen in the 17 years I have graded the bar exam would be a disaster,” Elleffson says. “They would be an embarrassment to the bar, they would be an embarrassment to the judiciary.”

Elleffson says the exam serves a key purpose. “It seems to me that there are essentially three issues. One is the protection of the public. The other is the fact that I believe the bar exam makes law students into better students,” Elleffson says. Elleffson says the third key issue in keeping the bar exam is that it identifies what he calls the “Hallmark of Lawyers” among the law school graduates.

“When we talk about the Hallmark of Lawyers I think we are talking about an ability to think, I think we are talking about an ability to recognize issues, to analyze those issues and to clearly communicate our analysis of those issue,” Elleffson explains.

Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin, offered a different view of taking the exam. “The whole experience was for me, simply horrendous,” Conlin says. “There is no relationship to any skill necessary to practice law.” Conlin says the exam is something she will never forget.

“I have argued dozens of cases before this court and other appellant courts, and I have never felt the fear that I felt taking the Iowa Bar Examination,” Conlin says. She says she favored instituting the diploma privilege after taking the bar exam, but then became involved in other things and didn’t push the change.

Conlin says she was pleased to learn that a Blue Ribbon Committee had recommended doing away with the bar exam. “It measures nothing about what one needs to have to practice law effectively. It accomplishes nothing — it is not even a decent right of passage,” Conlin says. “Instead it is simply a test of one’s ability to live through three days of unrelenting stress.”

The Iowa Supreme Court also received more than 150 written comments on the issue. A court spokesman says there is not timetable for when the justices will decide the issue. Wisconsin is the only state that allows law school graduates to begin working without passing a bar exam.


Appeals Court rules gang references didn’t hinder Waterloo man’s case

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a northeast Iowa man’s murder conviction. Montez Caples of Waterloo admitted to luring 34-year-old Robert Shannon of Parkersburg into a car where he shot him in the back of the neck in 2011. He said he was forced to kill Shannon by another man.

Caples was found guilty of first-degree murder, but appealed the conviction, saying evidence that he and Shannon were members of rival gangs should not have been allowed at the trial. He also said an interview with police where he confessed to the shooting should not have been allowed.

The Court of Appeals says the evidence of Caples’ gang involvement, and his confession were both properly used in the trial and the verdict, and his life sentence should stand.

See the full ruling here: Caples ruling PDF