Iowa Democrats Seeking Special Budget Session

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The brother of a man who died after being transferred from a Clarinda mental hospital closed by the state is blaming his death on the move to a private center. The Des Moines Register reports 65-year-old Robert Hanson Jr. died July 1 at a Des Moines Hospital. He’d been among fewer than 20 patients in the Clarinda hospital’s geriatric program when Gov. Terry Branstad closed the center and another mental hospital in Mount Pleasant. Hanson, who suffered brain damage in the 1980s, was moved to a Perry nursing home June 8. His brother, Tim Hanson, says he became severely dehydrated and was transferred to a Des Moines hospital, where he died. Continue Reading

Branstad Defends Budget Vetoes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad says he vetoed several appropriations approved by lawmakers because he opposes one-time spending for ongoing expenses. Branstad said Monday that he has long been clear about his concerns over such budgeting practices. Last week, he vetoed much of a one-time spending bill backed by the legislature, which included nearly $56 million for K-12 education. Democrats and education leaders are criticizing the move, saying it will hurt schools. Branstad says he has made other investments in education. Continue Reading

Justin Kester. Photo from the Iowa Department of Corrections

Fort Madison Prison Escapee Used Tied Bedsheets, Crawled Through Narrow Opening

Governor Terry Branstad says state prison officials are conducting a “total review” of security at the medical unit on the Iowa State Penitentiary grounds where Sunday’s prison break happened. 25 year old Justin Kestner had removed the screws from an access cover to a pipe chase in the cell shower and subsequently maneuvered up the chase and through a vent to the roof. Kestner used a rope constructed from torn bed sheets and the drain pipe to make his way to the ground from the roof of the unit to an unfenced area. “I think it was pretty ingenious in what he came up with,” Branstad says. “I guess most prison escapes are, but it’s stupid, absolutely stupid when you’re on a 10 year sentence to escape prison. Continue Reading

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Iowa Democrats Prefer Hillary, But Sanders Gaining in KBUR/Monmouth College Poll

Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton holds a more than 3 to 1 advantage over her closest competitor, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in a KBUR-AM, Burlington, IA, and Monmouth College (IL) Midwest Matters poll of 1,000 likely caucus goers. Clinton has the support of 63% of Democrats in Iowa compared with 20% for Sanders. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is at 5%, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is at 3% and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee is at 1%. Another 8% of respondents are undecided. “The results of the poll fit in pretty well with what the rest of the polls are showing,” said Robin Johnson, host of “Talking Politics” on KBUR and part-time lecturer at Monmouth College, “In that Hillary Clinton has a sizable lead in Iowa. Continue Reading

Not a Good Week for Iowa DOC: Two Listed as “Escaped” From Waterloo Work Release

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Iowa prison officials say two inmates remain listed as escaped from the work release facility in Waterloo. A prison news release sent Sunday says 23-year-old Darius Caston was placed on escaped status following an unexcused absence. He’s been serving a 20-year sentence since May 28, 2010, after convictions for willful injury and intimidation with a dangerous weapon. Caston was transferred to the facility on May 1. Also missing from the Waterloo facility is 20-year-old Jared Brooks. Continue Reading

This Cellphone Case might end up being the last one you ever carry. Photo from Japan Trend Shop.

Police: Don’t Carry Gun-Shaped Cellphone Case

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Police in Sioux City are urging people not to use a cellphone case that looks like a gun, saying the device could be confused for the real thing. Police Chief Doug Young tells the Sioux City Journal that the case could put people who carry it in danger. The case is designed to hold a smartphone in what would be the barrel of a handgun. It includes a pistol handle and trigger guard. Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew says the phone case looks like a real gun if it’s tucked into a waistband or pocket to hide the phone and show only the handle. Continue Reading

Court Filing Now Paperless in Iowa

CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) — Filing a court claim in Iowa now only requires a computer. As of July 1, Iowa courts have moved to a totally electronic, paperless filing system for records. Court documents can now be filed and viewed online. Mason City television station KIMT reports that the clerk of courts office in Floyd County calls the move a welcomed change. Floyd County judicial specialist Stacey Oleson says office workers are able to get electronic filings to judges faster and that the paperless system helps cases progress more quickly. Continue Reading

Former Security Guard Indicted in Mall Shooting Pleads Not Guilty

CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) — A former security guard has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of a 20-year-old coworker shot dead inside a busy Iowa mall. Court records show 22-year-old Alexander Kozak entered the plea in writing on Thursday through his attorney. Investigators say Kozak shot Andrea Farrington multiple times June 12 at the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, killing her. The shooting prompted a chaotic scene in which some shoppers fled and others went on lockdown. Kozak worked as a mall security guard but quit his job earlier in the day. Continue Reading

Supreme Court Denies Franchise Fee Case Attorney Fee Appeal

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by a team of lawyers who say they’re not getting paid enough for winning a class-action lawsuit against the city of Des Moines for charging improper franchise fees. Attorneys Brad Schroeder, Bruce Stoltze and Steven Brick will be paid $7 million instead of the $15 million they say is fair. They asked for the high court review of an Iowa Court of Appeals decision which for the first time in Iowa reduced lawyer fees because public funds were involved. Schroeder says it may discourage attorneys from taking such cases. The lawyers represented Lisa Kragnes, who in 2004 sued claiming city franchise fees were illegal. Continue Reading