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Home / Iowa Supreme Court orders release of men committed as violent predators
The Iowa Supreme Court has ordered the release of two men who were committed to state custody as sexually violent predators after it ruled prosecutors failed to meet a deadline for a timely trial.
The court issued its ruling on Friday in the Clinton County case of Alan Fowler and the Page County case of Valjean Lehman.
Fowler was committed to the custody of the Iowa Department of Human Services as a sexually violent predator in 2008 after he completed a two-year prison sentence of willful injury causing bodily injury and going armed with intent. Valjean was committed as a sexually violent predator that same year.
In both cases, the court ruled the state failed to hold trials in the civil commitment process within the 90 days of when a court found there was probable cause to hold the men as sexually violent predators as required under state code.
In Fowler's case, the district court determined the court's scheduling error, Fowler's failure to request a speedy trial and the relatively short period of time the trial exceeded the 90-day limit constituted "good cause" for missing the deadline, but the Supreme Court disagreed.
"Whether the miscalculation of the trial date occurred because of the court's scheduling or because of the inattention of the state, such an error is not justification for missing the deadline," the court wrote in its ruling. "The 90-day time limit in Iowa Code ... is mandatory and because the state failed to bring Fowler to trial within 90 days, and did not request a continuance nor provide a showing of good cause, the case must be dismissed and the defendant released."
The court cited the same reasons in ordering the dismissal of Lehman's case and his release.
Kevin Cmelik, assistant Iowa attorney general, was disappointed in the ruling.
"Obviously, our concern in attempting to commit these individuals was to protect the public from what we deemed to be dangerous individuals but the court determined that because of the process that was followed they did not go through the process in a timely manner," Cmelik said. "We can't pursue their commitment any longer and we will abide by the court's decision."
A telephone message left for State Appellate Public Defender Mark Smith, who represented both men, was not immediately returned.