Public Safety

Judge sides with Iowa newspaper over police video

Maquoketa Sentinel-Press examines call involving official

Police lights
Police lights

A judge has ruled in favor of Sycamore Media, owner of the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press, in its quest to obtain Maquoketa Police Department video taken at a 911 call involving Amanda Lassance, Jackson County’s assistant attorney.

“This information will give the public a fuller understanding of the incident in question,” wrote 7th Judicial District Judge John Telleen.

Under the state’s open records law, the police department had the burden of proving why the video should be kept secret. Public records generally are available to the public, subject to specified exceptions.

Telleen noted in the ruling that “the central incident of this case raises an allegation that a prosecutor received lenient treatment when she herself was discovered committing a criminal offense.”

In addition, the judge said, the investigation is officially closed, no further charges are being considered and the case does not involve a confidential informer.

“Although Maquoketa police officers had only limited involvement in the incident and no control over the ultimate charging decision, the records they generated are significant because Maquoketa police officers were the first to arrive on the scene and interact with Lassance. Their squad car and body camera footage will show a portion of the incident not found in the public records already provided by the Clinton and Jackson County sheriff’s departments. This information will give the public a fuller understanding of the incident in question,” Telleen wrote.

Maquoketa Police Chief Brad Koranda last summer refused to release video the Sentinel-Press requested. The newspaper appealed to the Maquoketa City Council to intervene before filing suit, but that went unanswered.

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Molly Parker and Sam Jones of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll P.C. in Cedar Rapids represented the newspaper. Matthew Novak, of Pickens, Barns & Abernathy in Cedar Rapids, represented the city.

The Sentinel-Press first reported on the 911 call involving Lassance in April 2019 when Clinton County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Petersen cited Lassance and her companion, Nick Shannon, for having open containers of alcohol in Lassance’s car after responding to Shannon’s call to Jackson County Dispatch. Deputies from both Jackson and Clinton counties and officers from Maquoketa and Bellevue responded to the complaint that took place on Highway 61, just south of the Clinton/ Jackson County line.

According to dispatch records, Shannon told police Lassance had attacked him. Lassance, according to police reports, was sitting in the driver’s seat of the parked car when police arrived and found beer cans strewn about.

Petersen wrote in his report that he was prepared to administer a sobriety test to the public official, but Lassance told him she had been drinking after she already had stopped the car and he changed is mind.

Lassance and Shannon both pleaded guilty to Clinton County citations of having open containers of alcohol in a vehicle and faced no other charges.

The Sentinel-Press received video taken by Petersen’s squad car dashboard camera. It showed him dropping Lassance off at the Jackson County Courthouse, where she spent the night in her office.

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