October 7, 2015

Senator Grassley to hold hearing in Iowa on fight against meth

Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

It’s not often we hear about methamphetamine lab busts in Iowa any more, but crimes and other problems associated with meth addiction continue to raise concerns.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley will chair a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in central Iowa next week to discuss the ongoing battle with meth. Grassley says Iowa law enforcement and drug treatment officials tell him the problem is still “severe.”

Grassley says, “While some state and federal laws have helped to limit meth production in our state, Mexican drug cartels are apparently stepping in to eliminate the gains we’ve made in the fight against meth.”

In recent years, state and federal legislation has restricted the ability to buy key ingredients used in making meth, like allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine. Still, drug lords south of the border are managing to smuggle in larger and larger quantities of the ready-to-use drug.

“The hearing is designed to learn about current trends concerning meth use and distribution in Iowa,” Grassley says. “Another purpose of it is to bring awareness to the issue, and another purpose, to find out if there are ways the federal government can help address the problem beyond what we’re already doing.” Iowans who want to offer input at the hearing but who can’t attend will still have options.

“I intend to hear from witnesses on the front lines in the battle against meth abuse,” Grassley says, “in addition, to help us gain full understanding of the problem, Iowans can submit written testimony for the hearing record.”

The hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 13th, at 10 A.M. in the main auditorium of the State Historical Building in Des Moines.


Senator Grassley and others unveil ‘landmark’ sentencing reform legislation

Senator Chuck Grassley speaks about the sentencing reform legislation.

Senator Chuck Grassley speaks about the sentencing reform legislation.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley unveiled legislation today during a Washington, D.C. news conference that is aimed at recalibrating prison sentences for certain drug offenders.

Senators from both parties joined Grassley to announce the “Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015” which he says makes a significant change in how the courts treat lower-level drug crimes.

“This is truly a landmark piece of legislation. It’s the biggest criminal justice reform in a generation. It’s the product of a very thoughtful, bipartisan deliberation by the Congress,” Grassley says. The bill narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals. It also give judges greater discretion in determining appropriate sentences.

Grassley is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and says the bill guarantees the most serious drug traffickers and violent criminals will remain locked away. “But for the first time, we’re cutting back many of the most severe mandatory minimums so that they apply more fairly,” according to Grassley. The act grants judges more discretion in handing out sentences for lower-level crimes and addresses rehabilitation programs to help former inmates reenter society.

The Iowa Senator says this announcement is the result of a lot of hard work. “There are things in here that each of us like. There are items that each of us would rather do without,” Grassley says, “but this is how things work here in the Congress. Grassley admits he had to change his mind on the legislation.

“Well, I think what brought me along was the ability of people to look at things other than just cutting minimums in half. We’ve had an opportunity to reduce some minimums, but on some issues we had an opportunity to increase,” Grassley explains.

Grassley says if you look at his past statements and statements he made when he took over as chair of the Judiciary Committee, he has been open to reaching a deal on the issue. He says they now need to discuss the issue and determine if there needs to be a hearing on the bill.


Prescription drug take back set for Saturday

PillsFederal, state and local officials are hosting another National Prescription Drug Take Back day Saturday. The spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy Dale Woolery says it’s another opportunity to get rid of unwanted drugs.

“This will be the 10th take back opportunity over the last five years for Iowans to dispose of unused controlled prescription drugs which an be those medicines that are subject to abuse — like prescription pain relievers,” Woolery says. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had planned to end the take back days, but reinstated the program.

“We’ll have over 100 sites across Iowa in communities where mainly on Saturday from 10 to 2 and they’ll be handled securely and disposed of through incineration,” Woolery says. permanent locations across Iowa, where Iowans can do the same in an ongoing basis.” While there are more opportunities now to take back medications, Woolery says the take back days have served as a reminder for people to do a check.

He says it’s good to take time once in the spring and in the fall to clean out your medicine cabinet for out-of-date or unused medications. “This will be a great opportunity to get rid of those medicines in a safe an secure way, so they don’t get into the drinking water, they don’t get into the wrong hands, don’t lead to abuse,” Woolery says.

You can anonymously dispose of the medications. “I think there are studies being done to try and determine what people are throwing away in the event that that would help determine future courses of actions as to how this should be done better to be more user friendly. I haven’t heard the results of that,” Woolery says. “But as a rule, nobody is getting in there. This is all sight unseen, nobody’s asking questions, nobody’s going to see what somebody has been taking. By design it’s to be anonymous.”

Woolery says the numbers show there are a lot of the unused prescription drugs out there. “In the state of Iowa alone over the last five years, 25 tons of unused meds have been collected at these take back events,” according to Woolery. The DEA says more than 2,400 tons of prescription drugs have been turned in nationwide in the five years. For a complete list of sites and times for the take back, go to the Office of Drug Control Policy website.


Shenandoah cousins sent to federal prison on drug charges

gavel-thumbnailShenandoah man has been sentenced to 15 years in a federal prison after a year-long investigation of drug trafficking in southwest Iowa.

Authorities say their investigation traced the shipment of methamphetamine from Texas into Page County in southwest Iowa. The drug was then distributed throughout southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Forty-one-year-old James Jayson Davis of Shenandoah pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in February and he was sentenced this week.

His cousin, 31-year-old James Paul Davis, was also arrested and he pled guilty in March. In July the younger cousin was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Fort Dodge men get prison time and probation in two sentencings

GavelOne Fort Dodge man will spend 10 years in federal prison for drug dealing, while another has escaped prison time on a gun charge.

Forty-one-year-old John Quillen Junior pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, admitting he was involved in both distributing and selling meth between January and November of 2014.

The meth he help distribute and the meth he sold totaled around two pounds. Quillen had previously been convicted of a felony charge of distributing meth in 1999. He was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison, where there is no parole.

The other Fort Dodge man, 25-year-old Jacob Blaze Jamison, was sentenced to one year of probation after he admitted to buying guns for a felon and then not telling the truth about it. Jamison admitted he bought two nine millimeter handguns for William “Billy'” Rees. Rees is a convicted felon and not able to buy guns.


Hillary Clinton talks XL Pipeline, prescription drugs in Des Moines forum (audio)

Hillary Clinton speaking in Des Moines.

Hillary Clinton speaking in Des Moines.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a forum in the gym of a Des Moines elementary school today to talk about her plan that she says would cut the high cost of prescription drugs. But Clinton got onto the topic of the Keystone XL pipeline while taking questions, and for the first time announced she is against it.

Clinton said as a former Secretary of State she waited to see what the President and current Secretary of State did about the pipeline before she expressed an opinion. “So I thought this would be decided by now, and therefore I could tell you whether I agreed or disagreed,” Clinton said. ” I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and other voters who asked me about this.”

Clinton went on to explain her stand to the Drake student who asked the question about the pipeline.

“It is imperative that we look at the Keystone Pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from the important work that we have to do to combat climate change — and unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues. Therefore I oppose it,” Clinton said.

Clinton said current pipelines leak and cause problems and that’s part of why she is against it.

“I don’t think it is in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change,” Clinton said. “I will be rolling out in a few days my plan for a North American approach to fighting climate change and clean energy.”

Participants in a forum wait for Hillary Clinton to arrive.

Participants in a forum wait for Hillary Clinton to arrive.

Clinton’s discussion on climate change ironically came after she started the forum 40 minutes late, which left the participants waiting in the small Moulton Elementary School gym sweating with no air conditioning and looking for a way to cool off.

Once she started her prepared remarks, Clinton talked about the high cost of prescription drugs. Clinton said she wants to eliminate corporate write-offs for direct-to-consumer drug company advertising and put the money into a tax credit for companies to conduct research and develop new drugs.

Clinton would require drug companies that benefit from taxpayer support to invest in research, and she said while some are worried her approach would hurt new drug development, she believes it would do the opposite.

“I won’t to both protect consumers and promote innovation, while putting an end to profiteering. We can achieve a win-win for families, businesses and America,” Clinton said.

Clinton spoke for around 25 minutes before taking questions from participants. She took a shot at Republican Governor Terry Branstad when asked about funding for mental health care. “We are still not providing the resources and insurance companies are not doing what they should to pay for people to get mental health,” Clinton said. “And your governor vetoed a bipartisan agreement that would have kept two of your four mental health facilities open and started moving people into nursing homes or basically discharging them. Three people have died because of that decision. That’s wrong, absolutely wrong.”

Clinton was referencing the veto by the governor of a legislative plan to keep the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant open. The state’s largest employees union is suing the governor over the decision. Governor Branstad has said his top priority is ensuring Iowa’s mental health patients have access to modern mental health care delivered in accredited facilities and that’s why he chose to close the Clarinda and Mt. Plesant facilities.

Audio: Hillary Clinton forum in Des Moines.  59:00


Norwalk man accused of giving woman fatal dose of heroin

Travis West

Travis West

West Des Moines police have charged a Norwalk man with providing the drugs that killed a woman back in June. Emmergency responders found 26-year-old Bailey Jo Brady unconscious in a West Des Moines apartment in the early morning on June 5th.

Efforts to revive Brady failed and she later died at the hospital. West Des Moines police investigated and forwarded their findings to the Polk County Attorney who approved two charges against 28-year-old Travis West.

West is charge with involuntary manslaughter and delivery of a controlled substance. The charges say West intenionally caused the death of Brady by providing her with heroin.