April 26, 2015

Supreme Court dismisses wrongful imprisonment claim by former Davis County coach

GavelThe Iowa Supreme Court says a former coach who had his sexual exploitation charge thrown out was not “wrongfully imprisoned.” Patrick Nicoletto was convicted of sexual exploitation by a school employee in 2012 after it was revealed he had a relationship with a 16-year-old student while serving as an assistant high school basketball coach for the Davis County Community School District.

The Iowa Supreme Court later overturned his conviction, saying Nicoletto was not a licensed teacher, and his coaching authorization was not covered under the sexual exploitation law. Nicoletto had bonded out of the county jail and never served any of his 5-year sentence — but filed suit after the sentence was overturned — saying he was wrongfully imprisoned.

The Iowa Supreme Court says the law requires a person to spend time in a state penitentiary, not a county jail, to get damages for wrongful imprisonment, and it dismissed Nicoletto’s lawsuit.

A bill addressing the first Supreme Court decision in Nicoletto’s case that would expand Iowa law so any school employee or volunteer at a school activity can be charged with sexual exploitation of a student is pending in the legislature. Under current Iowa law licensed teachers, administrators and counselors can be charged with that crime.


Escape from Madison County Courthouse costs Earlham man prison time

GavelAn Earlham man who took a deputy’s gun and fled during a court appearance is now facing some time in federal prison. Thirty-year-old Cory Lee Daugherty was brought to the Madison County Courthouse in March of 2014 to be sentenced on a felony drug charge.

Daugherty was sentenced to 10 years in prison and then started struggling with the deputy who tried to take him into custody. Daugherty grabbed the deputy’s gun and fled the courthouse — and was free for a short time before being caught. He later pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Daugherty was sentenced to 77 months in federal prison on the firearm charge, which he will have to serve on top of the 10-year sentence for the drug charge.


Waterloo casino won’t have to pay big slot jackpot to Illinois grandmother

GavelThe Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a grandmother from Illinois cannot collect 41-million-dollar bonus from a Black Hawk County slot machine. Pauline McKee went to the Isle Casino and Hotel in Waterloo in July of 2011 following a family reunion. She sat down next to her daughter and began to play a penny slot machine called Miss Kitty.

McKee, who was then 87, wagered 25 cents on one spin and the screen said she’d won $1.85. A message appeared at the same time that said she’d also won a bonus of 41 million dollars. An investigation by the casino and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission determined the bonus message was in error, and the rules listed on the machine did not include such a bonus.

The district court threw out McKee’s lawsuit. The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling, saying there was no promise of a bonus given in the rules of the game, so the casino did not break a promise to pay out the bonus.

Here’s the full ruling: Waterloo casino ruling PDF


Cold weather raises concern for grape growers

grapesFrost and freezing conditions hit the state the last couple of nights and that has grape growers hoping they don’t see another drop in production like the one brought on by the cold last season.

State Viticulture Specialist Mike White says he had not had any reports of damage following Wednesday’s freeze warning. “For the most part things look pretty good in Iowa. There might have been a vineyard or two in southern Iowa in a low area that might have had some frost, but I think right now we’re looking pretty good,” White says.

White says however, grapevines do have some built in insurance against frost damage. He says each plant has three buds inside with the first being 100 percent fruitful. “Now if it gets out there with one or two leaves and let’s say its April 27th and you get a frost, well the secondary bud inside there will bust open, and it has the ability to produce maybe 30 to 50 percent of a crop,” according to White.

White says the third layer will not produce fruit but it will sustain the plant through the season. He says wineries last year took a hit from a cold and wet spring and a late summer thunderstorm in western Iowa. Yields were cut by as much as 40 percent. Iowa has more than 100 wineries across the state.


Outgoing student regent regrets vote for new funding plan

Hannah Walsh

Hannah Walsh

Three members of the board that governs the state-supported universities attended their last regular meeting today in Council Bluffs. The terms of Board of Regents members Robert Downer of Iowa City, Ruth Harkin of Cumming and Hannah Walsh of Spirit Lake are ending.

Walsh is the student member of the board and told fellow board members that her vote in favor of the new funding plan that would distribute 60-percent of the funding based on the number of in-state students, was a mistake.

“Being representative of all of our regents students has been incredibly important to me. And I felt that voting yes would serve as a testament to my devotion to this mentality. This is a decision I’ve come to regret,” Walsh says. “As much as I wanted to be a representative of all, we cannot tear down one university to build up two.”

Walsh is a senior at the University of Iowa, the school that will lose money under the new funding formula. “While I do believe that some portion of funding should be tied to the number of Iowa students attending each university — the current percentage is too high — and the role that graduate/professional students play, too low,” Walsh says. She says the unique nature of each school is one of the strengths of higher education in Iowa.

“No two of our universities are totally alike. Each contributes differently to the state of Iowa, each bettering our state for future generations,”Walsh says. “Individually our institutions are strong, but together our institutions are even stronger. I worry that such a high percentage of funding tied to our in-state students will diminish the strength that we, along with so many others, have built.” Walsh says she also feels there’s a need to add a graduate student representative to the Board of Regents.


Weather conditions and soil temperature keys to successful planting

Field waiting to be planted.

Field waiting to be planted.

Farmers got started planting last week before rains and cooler weather hit heading into this week. Iowa State University extension agronomist, Mark Licht, says he still cautions farmers to keep an eye on the forecast in deciding when to plant to avoid problems.

“Some of this corn that did get planted late last week, there is the potential that there is imbibitional chilling that could affect that stand establishment. So we really want to be careful of that, and just kind of keep an eye on not only what our planting conditions are at the present time, but really what they are going to do in the next three to five to seven days,” Licht says.

He says it’s a condition that hits seeds early on.”Typically we think of imbibitional chilling being more critical or crucial or impacting in the 24 to 48 hours following the planting of the seed,” Licht explains. “Because that’s time the frame where that seed imbibes water and the metabolic processes within the seed start and get us on to the way to that emerging seed.” He says imbibitional chilling can stop the germination process entirely, or impact the seed in the process.

“They may germinate, get some shoots and or root growth and die before they emerge. Or it can just be a slowed growth, a slowed vigor, so it may just take it longer to emerge, which in that case makes it more susceptible to seed pathogens, root pathogens that occur early in the season,” Licht says.

Farmers are anxious to get into the fields as quickly as they can, but Licht says planting early doesn’t always mean farmers will be able to get crops out of the fields earlier in the fall. “Part of it depends on really what our growing season ends up doing on us. A cool season like we had last year, really planting early in some ways helped us because it was just a longer growing season. The crop didn’t mature quite as fast because it was just so much cooler,” Licht says. “We get into a warm growing season, planting early gives it more time in the fall for it to dry down after it matures. So, there is some truth to it.”

The U.S.D.A. crop report from Monday showed seven percent of the corn acreage had already been planted, which was a little ahead of last year, but right about normal for the 5-year average.


Organ recipients take part in Earth Day tree planting at UI

TransplantPhotoMarch2015One of the Earth Day Celebrations today in Iowa City will feature a special group of people who are the beneficiaries of what could be called recycled life.

At least 20 organ donor recipients will be part of a ceremony to plant a tree near the University of Iowa Hospitals.

The UI Organ Transplant Center just recently marked the milestone of five-thousand organ transplants.

Center director Alan Reed says they began with a kidney transplant in 1969. “Each story is a unique story, and individual story, and it has just been an honor for all of us at the University of Iowa to impact lives cross the state, across the region and in fact across the country,” Reed says.

The hospitals moved from that first kidney transplant to liver, pancreas, heart and lung transplants. Reed says the surgical techniques used in the transplant process have not changed much since they first began doing them.

“What’s really changed are the medicines that we use to prevent and treat rejection, the supportive care has changed dramatically. The technical aspects of the operation — they’ve changed some — we’ve learned a lot as we have gone on,” Reed says. “But the way we procure and preserve our organs have changed. I would say those have been the major changes along the way. Patient selection is important too.”

He says donated organs offer a new life to many people.

“A good example would be a patient with end-stage liver failure. They’re critically ill, they are malnourished, they don’t clot their blood, they have muscle wasting, they are incredibly ill,” according to Reed. “To take them from a state of this incredible level of illness and watch them get better over months is incredibly transformational, you don’t hardly recognize them when they come back in three or four months.”

Reed credits the organ donation network and the Iowans who sign up with making the program a success.

“A large percentage of people in this state have already signed up and made their wishes known that they want to donate organs. For a small state, we’ve done incredible thins. The percent of people who are eligible to donate their organs, that do donate their organs, it’s one of the highest — if not the highest in the nation,” Reed says.

Reed says there can be some guilt felt by those who receive an organ donation because it came from someone who died. But, he says that changes when they hear from the families or the donors.

“The donor families get a great deal of healing form knowing that this tragedy that can’t be prevented can go on to help other people,” Reed explains.

Iowans make up 85% of the patients who have received transplants at the UI center, and they have come from 96 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Today’s tree planting event starts at 1 PM on the green just north of Boyd Tower. It’s one of several events throughout the year held to honor organ donors and recipients.


Breakdown on types of transplants:

  • Kidney – 66.4%
  • Liver – 15.5%
  • Heart – 6.7%
  • Lung – 2.7%
  • Pancreas – 1.4%
  • Multi-organ transplants (including kidney/pancreas; kidney/liver; heart/kidney; and heart/lung) – 7.3%