March 1, 2015

Supreme Court turns down tax credit money for documentary linked to ‘Field of Dreams’

Iowa Supreme Court building.

Iowa Supreme Court building.

The Iowa Supreme Court has sided with the district court in denying film tax credits to a company which shot a documentary linked to the “Field of Dreams” movie site in Dyersville.

The company that produced the documentary “Field of Dreams Ghost Player” about the lives of the men who portrayed the ghost players who come out of the cornfield in the movie “Field of Dreams,” were seeking around $400,000 under a 2009 contract through the now defunct film tax credit program.

The Iowa Department of Economic Development figured they were only eligible for $59,000, and the investors in the project sued. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, saying the company did not go through all the needed administrative appeals before taking the legal action.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruling agrees that the company had not exhausted all of its administrative appeals. The Supreme Court also concluded the process used by the Iowa Economic Development Department in processing the claim did not deprive the company of its right to due process under the state or federal constitutions.

Here’s the complete ruling: Ghost player ruling PDF


Thousands of Iowans impacted by cyberattack on Anthem

Nearly 173,000 Iowans were impacted by the cyberattack reported earlier this month by a major U.S. health insurance provider. Anthem, Incorporated provided more information about the data breach and Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that it may have affected 172,727 Iowans who are current and former Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield members.

Gerhart said those affected by the breach will be contacted by the insurance company about identity theft repair services and credit monitoring. Anthem reported the cyberattack involved a database of records for 80 million people. Some of the information comprised included names, medical ID numbers and Social Security numbers.

Iowa consumers can visit or call 1-877-263-7995 to sign up for protections Anthem is providing.


Wisconsin man sentenced to federal prison for sex with an Iowa teen

A man who brought a teenage girl from Iowa to Wisconsin to have sex with her has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.

Thirty-year-old Christopher Heath-Lowther of Platteville, Wisconsin pled guilty to one count of transporting a minor across a state line with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and one count of transporting the minor for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct.

He admitted to traveling to Iowa between December of 2013 and February of 2014 to meet a 14-year-old girl so he could take her to Wisconsin to have sex with her. Heath-Lowther was sentenced to 235 months in prison and must register as a sex offender.


Judge orders Moulton contractor to pay restitution to customers

A Polk County judge ordered an Appanoose County contractor Wednesday to pay more than $100,000 in restitution following complaints from customers. Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman with the Iowa Attorney General’s office, says Thirty-nine-year-old Jeremey Lawson of Moulton operated Moulton and Bloomfield-based businesses.

“A lot of these complaints have been the same types of complaints — they say Mr. Lawson took money from them, whether it was a substantial payment, or a small payment, and then didn’t complete the work. That’s the majority of the complaints that we’ve heard,” Greenwood says. The Consumer Protection Division investigated some 40 complaints against Lawson.

Greenwood says others reported their project was only partially finished.”Or, he finished a project and it was not a suitable project, the work was substandard, it was not acceptable,” Greenwood says. “So the complaints have been piling up and have risen to the top of our Consumer Protection Division in terms of contractor enforcement.” The restitution was just part of the judgment reached with Lawson.

“It also sets forth some fairly stringent conditions if he continues with contracting or repair work,” according to Greenwood.

Lawson use business names that include Sturdy Buildings, Strong Structures, Lawson Building Components and J&C Buildings. Lawson denied the allegations but agreed to the consent judgment to settle the matter with the Consumer Protection Division.

Greenwood says you can save yourself some hassle by doing some background work before hiring a contractor. “Really important is to check up front on that contractor….do some web searching. You can check with the state Workforce Development labor division to see if they are registered — and they need to be registered,” according to Greenwood. “You can also check court records at Iowa Courts Online to see if there are civil judgments or any kind of criminal convictions against someone.”

He says one good way to find a contractor is to get a recommendation from somebody you know. “Someone you know and trust, someone who has had a good experience with someone. You can also check the references the contractor provides and ask that person ‘where you really satisfied, what did they do, how long did it take, what were the financial arrangements.'”

He says you should ask for a copy of the contractor’s liability insurance certificate, and be wary of a person or company not listed in the local telephone directory.


Restitution begins for mother who faked daughter’s cancer to collect donations

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

A restitution hearing was held this afternoon in the case of a southwest Iowa woman who falsely claimed her 5-year-old daughter had cancer and then raised money for her treatment.

Fourth District Court Judge Greg Steensland presided over the hearing for 30-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic. Slauson was unable to make it to attend due to the weather, but she was represented by her lawyer, Jay Mez.

Six people testified at the hearing and provided evidence to the judge of how much they had contributed to Slauson, or the “Super Riley Fund” set up for her daughter. Most presented photocopies of checks, but one woman presented credit card statements. The amounts claimed ranged from $200 to over $3,000. Judge Steensland, Mez and Cass County Attorney David Wiederstein agreed to accept the claims. Now it’s up to the judge to determine how much each person or organization will receive.

Wiederstein noted the total victim restitution amounts to $35,964 and $3,000 has been returned in the form of an RV that was used, leaving a balance of $32,964. But, the amount of funds available to distribute equals just $15,920. Judge Wiederstein said since the amount of claims exceed the available funds, it puts him in a a predicament.

“We’ve already had a situation where we’re trying to figure out what to do with money that shouldn’t have been given out in the first place. As a judge, I cannot exacerbate that by giving out funds that I can’t track,” Wiederstein said. He said he would reimburse those funds that he thinks are provable, in the form of a court order.

Slauson was sentenced to 5 years probation in January and was ordered to continue mental health treatment and not have contact with her 5 children unless requested by her therapist. In November, she pled guilty to charges of child endangerment, administering harmful substances, theft and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

(Reporting by Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


Cedar Rapids police believe death of husband and wife is a murder-suicide

Police CarInvestigators in Cedar Rapids say the deaths of two people there is believed to be a murder-suicide.

Cedar Rapids police were called to the southeast side home for a welfare check after co-workers reported that 44-year-old Sherry Haferbecker did not show up for work as a custodian at Prairie Hill Elementary School in the College Community Schools district.

Officers located the body of Haferbecker inside the home along with the body of her 45-year-old husband, Mitchell Haferbecker. Police believe that Mitchell Hafterbecker shot Sherry with a handgun and then used the gun to kill himself.

Mitchell Haferbecker was a custodian at the Prairie Heights Elementary School, and police say he had been placed on administrative leave from the school district. Police did not give any other details on the investigation.


Cedar Rapids man sentenced for selling lethal dose of heroin

gavel-thumbnailAn eastern Iowa man will spend more than 30 years in federal prison for selling heroin that caused a death.

Thirty-five-year-old Ramon Cortez Freeman of Cedar Rapids pled guilty in November of last year to distribution of heroin resulting in death, three counts of distributing heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Freeman admitted he dealt heroin to another person in January of 2014 and that person died from using the drug. Investigators say the heroin Freeman was distributing was around 70 percent pure, while historically heroin distributors had peddled heroin that was only one percent pure.

They say the more pure forms of heroin have led to more overdoses and deaths in eastern Iowa. Freeman was sentenced to 365 months in prison on the death charge, 240 months on the heroin distribution charges, and 120 months on the firearm charge. The sentences will run concurrently. He was ordered to make nearly 10-thousand dollars in restitution to the family of the overdose victim.