Man Accused of Posing as Actor Pleads Guilty to Child Porn

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A man accused of posing as an actor from the “Twilight” movies to entice girls in Iowa has pleaded guilty to federal possession of child pornography charges. U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt says 33-year-old David LaVera, of San Diego, entered his plea deal Thursday. It calls for 63 months in federal prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. An attorney for LaVera didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment. In his plea deal, LaVera said he knowingly possessed child pornography that he had produced in Newton, Iowa, using a hidden camera. Continue Reading

New London Woman Accused of Elaborate Dating Site Scam

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — A southeast Iowa woman has been accused of scramming more than $17,000 from a South Carolina woman in a dating website ruse. The Hawk Eye reports that 46-year-old Doris Warth, of New London, is charged with felony theft. Jail records say she remained in custody on Friday. Her attorney didn’t immediately return an Associated Press call seeking comments on her case. Court documents say Warth told investigators that she’d used a military-oriented dating website in the scheme. Continue Reading

Governor’s Priorities in Place as Legislature hits Deadline

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — With the bipartisan approval of a fuel tax increase out of the way, Gov. Terry Branstad is hoping to win backing for two other legislative priorities — an anti-bullying bill and an effort to expand broadband internet access. Both bills were set to move forward as the Legislature approached a Friday procedural deadline, while some other more partisan legislation appeared dead Thursday. Branstad said he was pleased that his agenda is moving ahead in the Legislature. Under legislative rules, known as “funnel week,” Friday is the deadline for most bills to receive committee-level approval in the state House or Senate. Some bills are not subject to this deadline, like budget bills, and legislative leaders could always revive a bill later in the session. Continue Reading

Bill Would Require Public Officials to Post Contact Information

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Senate committee has approved a bill that would require contact information for elected public officials in Iowa to be published online in a timely manner. A state government committee approved the bill unanimously Thursday. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The bill would require an entity to post contact information for an elected public official within 30 days of the official’s swearing in to the position. A public official includes lawmakers, county board supervisors, city council members and board members of a school district. Continue Reading

Gun Laws Would Make Youth Firearm Possession Legal, Remove Public Access to Gun Owners List

Bills that deal with a variety of gun-related issues have cleared committees in both the House and Senate this week.  

For example, legislators are moving to make the names and addresses of Iowans who have permits to carry a weapon accessible only to law enforcement. The Iowa Newspaper Association argues that information should remain a public record. Representative Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley counters that a quarter of a million Iowans have gun permits. “That’s a lot of people’s names and home addresses out there that don’t need to be made public in the newspaper,” Windschitl said this week. Continue Reading

Man Who Posed as “Twilight” Actor, Visited Schools, May Change Plea

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A change of plea hearing has been scheduled for a California man accused of visiting Iowa schools while posing as an actor from the “Twilight” series who previously pleaded guilty to federal pornography charges. Online court records show 33-year-old David LaVera, of San Diego, is set to change his plea Thursday in federal court in Des Moines. LaVera pleaded not guilty in October to charges of sexual exploitation of a child and possession of pornography. An attorney for LaVera did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment about his change of plea. Authorities say LaVera posed as “Kiowa Gordon,” an actor in the “Twilight” series, and visited two schools in Newton while in Jasper County last year. Continue Reading

Court Monitor says Illinois DOT should Clean House on Hiring Rules

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A federal court-appointed monitor has recommended that the Illinois Department of Transportation clean up its hiring rules. A preliminary report was filed Wednesday in a lawsuit by anti-patronage activist Michael Shakman against IDOT. It targets previous administrations’ improper hiring of politically connected candidates. Monitor Noelle Brennan’s report says IDOT should write more accurate job descriptions and clearly identify each position that is supposed to be filled without political considerations. Continue Reading

Iowa Judge Dismisses Sex Case Against Former School Worker

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A judge has dismissed charges filed against a former Des Moines school district employee accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. Judge Carla Schemmel said in her dismissal order Monday that 33-year-old Dena Konrad was not a school employee as defined by state statute. Konrad had been charged with two felony counts of sexual exploitation by a school employee. Authorities have said Konrad had the relationship with a male student over the summer. Konrad’s lawyer has said Konrad never worked with the student as part of her job duties. Continue Reading

House Committee Approves Broadband Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A House committee has approved Gov. Terry Branstad’s broadband bill, but made several key changes in how the legislation will support expanding high-speed Internet in Iowa. A full commerce committee voted 22-1 Wednesday in support of the bill, which in its latest version would strip away $5 million in state funds for a grant program. Lawmakers agreed to instead fund the program through federal and private dollars. It’s unclear how much money will immediately be available for the program, which aims to help service providers build up infrastructure for broadband, also known as high-speed Internet. The bill also would expand a property tax program from three years to 10 years. Continue Reading