November 21, 2014

Update: teens charged in threats at SE Polk High School

Southeast Polk High School

Southeast Polk High School

Three teenagers are now charged in connection with posts to a social media app that threatened violent acts at Southeast Polk High School in the Des Moines suburb of Pleasant Hill. The names of the teens are not being released, but authorities say they are two 16-year-old boys and a 13-year-old boy.

The charges include intimidation with a dangerous weapon, threats of terrorism, threats with an explosive device, and first-degree harassment.

From previous story:

The threats were made earlier this week on the app Yik Yak, which allows users to make posts anonymously. But, cyber security expert and Iowa State University professor Doug Jacobsen says virtually anything posted on the Internet is traceable. He notes Yik Yak utilizes a user’s GPS coordinates. “Also, the IP address of your phone on the Internet is recorded by the Yik Yak servers,” Jacobsen says. “So, those two pieces of information can be used by law enforcement to potentially track you down.”

There’s been heightened security in place at Southeast Polk since a threat was made over the weekend and another one was posted Tuesday. Jacobsen says teens and all social media users should recognize that everything they post can have consequences. “It never goes away and it can always come back to haunt you,” Jacobsen says. “The rule of thumb I tell people to tell their kids is ‘what would grandma think?’ Before I post this, what would grandma think if she knew I was the one who put that on the Internet?”

Police announced the filing of charges against the three teens at a press conference in Pleasant Hill this afternoon.

More information expected soon in Yik Yak threats targeting school

Southeast Polk High School

Southeast Polk High School

Charges are expected soon after postings earlier this week on a social media app threatened violence at a Des Moines area school. Pleasant Hill Police say two students are believed to be responsible for the threats at Southeast Polk High School.

The threats were made on the app Yik Yak, which allows users to make posts anonymously. But, cyber security expert and Iowa State University professor Doug Jacobsen says virtually anything posted on the Internet is traceable. He notes Yik Yak utilizes a user’s GPS coordinates. “Also, the IP address of your phone on the Internet is recorded by the Yik Yak servers,” Jacobsen says. “So, those two pieces of information can be used by law enforcement to potentially track you down.”

There’s been heightened security in place at Southeast Polk since a threat was made over the weekend and another one was posted Tuesday. Jacobsen says teens and all social media users should recognize that everything they post can have consequences. “It never goes away and it can always come back to haunt you,” Jacobsen says. “The rule of thumb I tell people to tell their kids is ‘what would grandma think?’ Before I post this, what would grandma think if she knew I was the one who put that on the Internet?”

The superintendent of Southeast Polk Schools announced late Wednesday that two students suspected of posting the threatening messages have been suspended from school. Police say formal charges are pending, as they continue to question additional students.

Supreme Court rules in New Albin harassment case involving teens

gavel-thumbnailThe Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that found a New Albin teen should not have been declared a juvenile delinquent. A girl reported a confrontation with another girl at a bus stop where she says the first girl called her names and swore at her in February of 2013. Both of the girls are 15 and their names were not revealed in court documents.

The first girl told police the other girl had been continually harassing her at school. The girl’s mother said they had considered moving because of the harassment. The state sought to have alleged harasser declared a juvenile delinquent. The juvenile court found the statements by the one girl were meant to intimidate the other girl and constituted harassment means of intimidation. It ruled the girl should be declared a juvenile delinquent.

The Iowa Court of Appeals found the juvenile court erred in its definition of intimidation and overturned the ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court agreed, saying there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the declaration of the girl as delinquent. It says the state failed to prove the girl purposefully or intentionally made personal contact with the other girl with the specific intent to threaten, intimidate, or alarm her.

The court says it clearly does not condone the behavior demonstrated in this case, but says the juvenile court committed an error when it declared the girl a delinquent under the harassment statute and reversed the judgment of the juvenile court.

Here’s the full ruling: Juvenile ruling PDF

 

Senator Harkin says inaction by Congress forced president to act on immigration

Senator Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he understands why President Obama will likely issue an executive order today providing temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. Harkin, a Democrat, blames the Republican-led U.S. House for its inaction on immigration. He notes, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill 18 months ago, a bill that hasn’t yet come up for debate in the House.

“So, it’s forcing the president to do something on an executive basis, which, I would admit should be done legislatively, but the crisis is real and the president has to act, so keep that in mind.” Harkin says if House leaders would allow the bill to go to a vote, it would likely pass. He’s expecting the president to take action today where the legislative branch of government has failed.

“I think he’s going to clarify in an executive order what his lawyers tell him that he can do executively,” Harkin says. “I think he’s going to do something about the “dreamers,” the young kids who are brought here as children or young kids, to let them be a part of our society and go to college here.”

The most controversial part of the expected executive order would grant legal status, at least on a temporary basis, to as many as five-million immigrants who are now in the country illegally.

Harkin says, “I believe that he’s going to stay the deportation of certain segments of people who have been here for a long time and are working and paying their taxes and everything else in this country.”

One Republican U.S. Senator says the president’s actions today may spark violence and “anarchy” from immigration opponents. Harkin says the comments from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn go too far in predicting such a negative reaction about the president’s pending executive order. “I wish Mr. Coburn would use less inflammatory language,” Harkin says. “This is the kind of thing that stirs people up and implicates fear and anxiety in people rather than calmly discussing it and talking about it.”

The president is expected to address the nation from the White House tonight.

 

Congressman-elect Blum listed in bankruptcy filing, loaned hockey star’s family $2 million

A Dubuque businessman who just won a seat in congress earlier this month is listed in a professional hockey player’s bankruptcy filing.

The Columbus Dispatch reports hockey star Jack Johnson, who plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets, has filed for bankruptcy after his parents — who managed his finances — apparently ran up huge debts in his name. The bankruptcy filing documents mention a $2 million loan that Rodney L. Blum made the family in March of 2011. Blum, who won Iowa’s first district congressional race this month, is a successful software developer.

The newspaper reports Blum’s office “did not respond to interview requests” and “it’s unclear” how Johnson’s family knew Blum or why Blum made a personal loan to the family, at a 12 percent interest rate. The newspaper reports that about a month after extending the loan, Blum sued. About $42,000 from the hockey star’s salary was garnished every two weeks during most of the past two seasons to repay the debt to Blum.

Blum’s spokesman, Keegan Conway, issued a written statement to Radio Iowa.

“Obviously this is a difficult time for the Johnson family,” Conway said, “and out of respect for their privacy Mr. Blum will not be discussing their private financial situation as the legal process takes its course.”

Hockey star Jack Johnson is 27 years old. The Columbus Dispatch reports his mother took out at least $15 million worth of high-interest loans in his name, using her son’s future earnings as collateral. The newspaper reports by this spring, the professional hockey player had little, if any, of his paycheck left after debt payments were made. He lists assets of just $50,000 and debts of at least $10 million in his bankruptcy filing.

(This story was updated at 11:57 a.m. with additional information.)

Secret Service arrests Iowa man near White House

Secret-Service-logoA Davenport man has been arrested near the White House on weapons charges.

The Secret Service says 41-year-old R.J. Renae Kapheim approached a uniformed Secret Service officer early Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C. He told the officer he had driven to the White House because someone in Iowa told him to do so. They say he did not specify who that was. Officers found his car parked nearby and he gave them permission to search it. They say they found a rifle, ammunition and knife in the trunk. Kapheim was charged with one count of possession of an unregistered firearm.

The Quad-City Times reports that Kapheim graduated from Davenport North High School in 1990 and is a product designer for a business his father, Henry, owns in Davenport. His late mother, Nancy, was a well-known Davenport running enthusiast. The paper says Kapheim’s neighbors were shocked at the actions that led to his arrest. Some described him as odd or strange.

(Reporting by Phil Roberts, Davenport)

Oskaloosa woman guilty of first-degree murder in daughter’s death

An Oskaloosa mother was found guilty today in the death of her 18-month-old child. Alicia Ritenour was convicted of first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death in the January death of her 18 month old child Ava.

The Mahaska County jury handed down its verdict after 11 hours of deliberations over two-and-a-half days. Ritenour and her family both were moved to tears as a result of the guilty verdict. During the trial, prosecutors sought to portray Ritenour as a mother who lost interest in parenting her child. Prosecutors also pointed to three different occasions where Ritenour had changed her story to authorities regarding the death of her child.

Ritenour’s defense attorney tried to argue to the jury that Ritenour was a good mother to Ava and could not have killed her. He also sought to prove that a friend of Ritenour’s live-in boyfriend had allegedly killed Ritenour’s daughter, saying the friend did not like Ava.

(Reporting by Charlie Comfort, KBOE, Oskaloosa)