April 25, 2015

Iowa’s governor signs visitation law inspired by Casey Kasem case

Kerri Kasem, on governor’s left, and Misty Davis, on right at bill signing.

Kerri Kasem, on governor’s left, and Misty Davis, on right at bill signing.

Iowa has passed a groundbreaking law that gives family members a new legal avenue to use if they’re blocked from seeing a relative who is incapacitated.

The law is inspired by the case of Casey Kasem, the legendary radio DJ who was host of “America’s Top 40.” Kerri Kasem, his oldest daughter, was at the Iowa capitol this afternoon (Friday) to watch Governor Branstad sign the bill into law.

“My dad would probably still be alive today if we had this bill in California,” Kasem said.

Casey Kasem, who died last June, suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Kasem’s wife, Jean, refused to let his children from a previous marriage see their father. Jean Kasem moved the radio legend out of a Santa Monica hospital last May and took him to the Seattle area, where he died a month later. Then she took his body first to Montreal, then Oslo, where it sat in a freezer for months until he was buried in an unmarked grave shortly before Christmas.

“This is a silent epidemic. There are so many abuses of guardianships and so many abuses of caretakers,” Kerri Kasem said. “…We have seen thousands of cases of isolation — thousands — and it’s legal. And all of the laws are on the abusers side and there is nothing you can do.”

The new Iowa law would allow relatives in a situation like Kasem’s to ask a judge to enforce visitation rights. Twenty-nine-year-old Misty Davis of Cedar Rapids hasn’t been able to see her step-brother, Jim Davis, who lives in Washington. Her step-mother — as the legal guardian for James — will not let Misty or anyone from her late husband’s family see Jim, who has an intellectual disability.

“I last saw him approximately two months ago,” Davis said today. “I get told by people where he’s at and I’ll show up randomly if it’s a public place and then within five minutes I’m kicked out or threatened with the law.”

The new law that would help Davis seek to enforce visitation rights goes into effect July 1. Until then, Davis has a list of what her stepbrother is missing: “memories, love, attention, respect, family.”

The last time Davis saw her stepbrother for an extended period of time was when they sat next to one another at their father’s funeral in January of 2013.

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.


States selling Lottery tickets via mobile devices see ‘incremental’ sales growth

Terry Rich

Terry Rich

Iowa Lottery officials are monitoring states that are experimenting with the electronic sale of lottery tickets. Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich told legislators the state-run lottery will eventually start to lose money if it doesn’t adapt “to player expectations for convenience and use of technology.”

“A mobile device is what most millennials are using now,” Rich said Thursday. “…Only 25 percent of the people use cash when they go into a store.”

Rich testified before the Iowa House Government Oversight Committee. He told the panel an attorney general’s opinion indicates the Iowa Lottery has the authority to conduct “internet gaming.”

“We don’t plan to do that without having discussions with you, working with the other gaming entities,” Rich said. “We need to do it as a gaming policy for the State of Iowa, but with a recent ruling in 2010 or ’11, five states are doing it now pretty heavy including Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri is doing some other types of internet gaming.”

Missouri is testing a “pay at the pump” system that lets customers buy lottery tickets as they buy gas. Illinois and Minnesota now permit lottery tickets to be purchased online.

“Retail stores have not shut down because of it,” Rich told legislators. “…It’s been incremental not exponential in its growth.”

Rich believes it’s a “matter of time” before online lottery ticket sales become “socially acceptable.” Only three states — New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware — allow online poker games.

Iowa teen surprised at statehouse ceremony when deployed dad appears

Courtney, James & Samantha Frey.

Courtney, James & Samantha Frey.

A statehouse ceremony honoring military kids in Iowa turned into an emotional reunion for a northern Iowa teenager and her father, who has been deployed overseas. Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Timothy Orr was in on the secret.

“Turn around please,” Orr said, and that’s when the surprise was sprung, promoting applause from the crowd as father and daughter hugged. “This is Samantha’s father who just returned from Iraq.”

Sixteen-year-old Samantha Frey of Parkersburg is a high school sophomore. Before her dad made his appearance at the event this afternoon, Samantha was invited to read a speech she wrote about seeing her dad off at the airport when he left nine months ago.

AUDIO of today’s ceremony 17:24

General Orr gave Samantha a “commander’s coin” just before he sprung the surprise. A few moments later the family spoke to reporters.

“It’s weird because last night I actually had a dream about like if he were to come and I was upset this morning. I was all like, ‘I’m going to be sad. He’s not going to come home,'” Samantha said. “…I still feel very like this isn’t real. I just feel so blessed. It feels good to have my dad home.”

That statement earned Samantha another kiss on the forehead from Staff Sergeant James Frey. Samantha snuggled into another embrace with her dad, still sniffling about two minutes after their surprise reunion. Samantha’s parents and the Iowa National Guard had been planning this surprise for about a month.

“I’m just glad it’s here now,” James Frey said. “That’s the biggest thing for me…getting back home.”

Samantha said today’s reunion was what every military kid dreams about when their mom or dad is away.

“I tortured myself watching a lot of coming home videos and the show ‘Coming Home,'” Samantha said.

Now, Samantha and her father have a coming home video of their own.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen one that could top that,” she told reporters. “…It was awesome.”

Frey, a former Marine, is a full-time member of the Iowa National Guard. This was his fourth deployment.

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.


Wild turkey hunters urged to help prevent spread of avian flu

TurkeysWith a third avian flu outbreak confirmed in Iowa, turkey hunters are being urged to take special care to halt the spread and not to shoot a bird that might be sick. Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says turkey hunters need to help minimize the risk of spreading the disease, which has already forced the euthanizing of tens of thousands of turkeys and millions of chickens in the state.

“We’re advising turkey hunters to avoid any commercial types of flocks like chickens or turkeys,” Baskins says. “Once that virus gets into a confinement situation, it will spread very rapidly and probably throughout the entire operation.” Hunters need to be vigilant for any birds that have died in the field or that appear sick. Signs include: ruffled feathers, swollen wattles, discoloration of the feet and impaired balance.

Baskins says if a dead or sick bird is spotted, hunters should mark the spot using GPS if possible and notify the DNR right away. They should not touch or try to move the birds. The avian flu is believed to be spread by migrating flocks of wild waterfowl, specifically, ducks and geese. “We don’t expect to see a lot of avian flu in turkeys,” Baskins says. “Turkeys tend to be more solitary. They move around in smaller groups. If there is an outbreak, it’ll be fairly isolated. It’s not like a confinement situation where we have commercial flocks and once it gets into a building, it spreads from bird to bird very rapidly.” Between the shotgun and archery seasons, turkey hunting will be underway in Iowa through May 17th.

Baskins says turkey hunters should follow some common sense precautions, like washing their hands with soap and water immediately after handling game — or if they’re in the field, use alcohol wipes. “We advise that you dress your game birds in the field whenever you can,” Baskins says. “Make sure you’re using the same tools, whether in the field or at home and that you don’t use those tools around other poultry or pet birds. Make sure you double-bag the internal organs and feathers so once you dispose of those, any virus that might be in there is contained.” For more tips, visit the website: www.iowadnr.gov.

There is no food safety concern, according to Baskins. Game meat should be thoroughly cooked, he says. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.

Three avian influnza outbreaks are confirmed in northwest Iowa in the past two weeks. The latest case involves 34,000 turkeys that will have to be euthanized at an operation in Sac County. The other cases are in Buena Vista and Osceola counties. The Osceola County case involves an egg-laying operation and 3.8 million hens will have to be destroyed.


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