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Friday, September 30, 2011

Maynard, Iowa man pleads guilty to sexual offense

Today a guilty plea was entered by MICHAEL KOUT, DOB: 2/25/1970, of Maynard, Iowa to the offense of Lascivious Acts with a Child, a class "C" felony punishable by imprisonment for a term not to exceed ten years and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.  KOUT was arrested after an investigation by the Muscatine Police Department and the Iowa Department of Human Services.

KOUT will be sentenced November 17, 2011, at 9:15 a.m.

Woman pleads guilty to drug trafficking offense

Today, HERMELINDA HERNANDEZ AGUILAR, DOB: 12/12/1957, of 1091 Ripley Court, Muscatine, pleaded guilty to Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, a class "D" felony punishable by imprisonment for a term not to exceed five years and a fine of $750 to $7,500.  AGUILAR admitted to having received a US mail package containing approximately eleven pounds of marijuana.  AGUILAR was arrested by agents of the Muscatine County Drug Task Force who had intercepted the package and conducted a controlled delivery of it to her.

AGUILAR will be sentenced October 21, 2011, at 10:00 a.m.

Muscatine man sentenced for burglary and theft.

STEPHEN STERNER, DOB: 10-31-1989, of 518 W 3rd Street, Muscatine, was sentenced after pleading guilty to Burglary in the Third Degree and Theft in the Third Degree.  The Court, the Hon. Thomas Reidel presiding, sentenced STERNER to concurrent terms of incarceration (of five and two years respectively) but suspended the prison sentences.  The Court placed STERNER on supervised probation, ordered he complete the Residential Correctional Facility program under the Seventh Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and ordered that he be held in jail pending a bed space at the facility.  He was also ordered to pay victim restitution.

The arrest and prosecution of STERNER was the result of an investigation by the Muscatine Police Department.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Protecting yourself from door-to-door sales scams

We occasionally get calls in our office complaining about door-to-door sales scams.  These scams are limited only by the imagination of the scammer.  A very common scam involves asphalting or sealcoating pavement.  The scammers will show up at your door and say that they have leftover material from another job and want to sell it at a low price - but they need to do it now.  They dump inferior product (or sometimes just waste oil), take your money, and leave.

There are some important things you should know about this issue.

First, know who you are dealing with.  Is this a business with a local address?  Do they have business cards, brochures, or other normal business documents?  Does the address on their documents match the state of issue for their license plates?  Do they have a local phone number?

Iowa law requires merchants from outside the state who come in to sell goods and services to register with the Secretary of State.  If you suspect the person is a scammer - ask to see his transient merchant license.  If they don't have one call your local law enforcement agency to report it.

Second, know your rights.  Door to door sales require the merchant to provide you with a three day right of rescission.  That means you get to break the contract with no penalty for three days.  If the asphalt contractor wants you to sign an agreement which doesn't have a rescission notice in it - it is a scam.  Don't sign!

Third, get it in writing.  A reputable contractor will specify in writing the work he will do and the price it will cost.  Many disputes and scams can be avoided by this simple requirement.  It is tempting to think at the beginning of an agreement that everything will work out fine and you can trust the other person.  The easiest person to trust is the one who puts it all on paper ahead of time.

There are criminal penalties for failing to have a transient merchant license, but all too often, law enforcement finds out about these door-to-door scams too late.  This summer the Muscatine County Sheriff's Department spent a great deal of time chasing suspected scammers.  If you think that someone is breaking the law please contact law enforcement right away.   We can't be everywhere at once - we need the public to help us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So, what does the County Attorney do anyway?

It's not like you see on TV.  Although crime dramas featuring prosecutors are common on television I find that many people don't really understand what their County Attorney does.  (One thing that is for certain we - unlike TV prosecutors - work on more than one case at a time).

Here are the highlights:

Prosecute criminal cases.  This is the primary job of the County Attorney.  Our office prosecutes every violation of state law occurring in Muscatine County.  We also prosecute violations of county ordinances.  Lawyers from the County Attorney's Office are in court every day on criminal cases - about 1400 indictable offenses per year.

Represent the state in juvenile court.  We present evidence on behalf of the Department of Human Services in child welfare and termination of parental rights cases.  The County Attorney's duty is to protect children by advocating for the DHS's position.  We also are the prosecutor in juvenile delinquency cases.

Represent the county and its officials.  A governmental body has the same legal issues that many corporations would have.  We enter into contracts to buy goods and services - these are reviewed by our office.  Sometimes we have employment or labor law questions that need to be answered.  The county also has a number of civil law issues which are specific to government: zoning enforcement, tax assessment appeals, and condemnation for road projects are all good examples.

There are a large number of other statutory duties of the County Attorney.  If you're interested you can look here.

One thing our office does not do is provide legal advice to the public.  We get calls on a daily basis from people who are asking about their personal legal problems: landlord/tenant, consumer issues, domestic relations, etc.  By law we cannot give advice in these situations - after all the person you are having the dispute is probably a county resident too.  For these types of issues we tell people to seek the advice of a private attorney.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Former Stockton city clerk pleads guilty

On September 23, 2011, the following occurred:

LAWRENCE MCCOY, DOB: 12/22/1957, of 1110 7th St., Durant, pleaded guilty to two counts of Theft in the First Degree.  Each charge is a class “C” felony.  MCCOY admitted to embezzlement from the City of Stockton, Iowa while employed as the City Clerk.

County Attorney Ostergren had the following statement:

“The defendant admitted to the theft of over $40,000 from the City of Stockton.  Although the State Auditor’s report found additional expenditures which were not supported by proper documentation, that was the amount of funds we could prove that the defendant personally took.

“The plea agreement with Mr. McCoy requires that he make full restitution for his crimes and that he must make an initial restitution payment of $5,000 at sentencing.  I am committed to using the tools of the criminal justice system to get the taxpayers of Stockton fully repaid.  I would like to thank the office of State Auditor David Vaudt for its thorough investigation which allowed this case to be successfully resolved.”

MCCOY will be sentenced November 17, 2011, at 9:00 a.m.

Guilty pleas entered

These guilty pleas were entered September 23, 2011:

MISTY DAWN STALEY, DOB: 1/10/1981, of 843 Newell, Muscatine, pleaded guilty to Delivery of a Controlled Substance, a class “C” felony, following an investigation by the Muscatine County Drug Task Force.  STALEY sold ten hydrocodone tablets to an informant working under the control of the task force.  STALEY will be sentenced November 10, 2011, at 9:45 a.m.

ROBERTO CAMPOS, DOB: 4/24/1993, formerly of 407 ½ Ijem Ave., Nichols, pleaded guilty to Delivery of a Controlled Substance, a class “C” felony, following an investigation by the Muscatine County Drug Task Force.  CAMPOS sold methamphetamine to an undercover agent.  CAMPOS will be sentenced November 10, 2011, at 9:30 a.m.


PATRICK BURNS, DOB: 7/20/1974, formerly of 317 W 3rd St., Muscatine, was sentenced following his guilty pleas to the following offenses:

Driving While Barred – aggravated misdemeanor
Two counts Delivery of a Controlled Substance – class “C” felonies
Burglary in the Third Degree – class “D” felony
Theft in the Third Degree – aggravated misdemeanor

The charges against BURNS were the result of investigations by the Muscatine Police Department and the Muscatine County Drug Task Force.  BURNS received a total prison sentence for a term not to exceed ten years.

JEROMY HAFNER, DOB: 5/13/1972, of 600 South Nebraska St., Letts, was sentenced following his guilty pleas to Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree, a class “C” felony, and Supplying Alcohol to a Minor, a serious misdemeanor.  An investigation by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation led to HAFNER’s arrest on March 30, 2011, for the sexual abuse of a minor during the summer of 2008. 

The Court sentenced HAFNER to consecutive terms of incarceration for a total term not to exceed eleven years.  The Court also imposed a fine totaling $11,875.  HAFNER will be on supervised release as if on parole for the remainder of his life once he completes his term of incarceration.

STEVE FELTON, DOB: 6/25/1979, of Hot Springs, Ark., was sentenced following a guilty plea to Forgery, a class “D” felony.  FELTON was charged following an investigation by the Muscatine Police Department into the forgery of a check belonging to a former roommate.  FELTON had been working in Muscatine at the time of the offense.  The Court deferred judgment, placed FELTON on probation, and ordered him to pay victim restitution and a civil penalty of $750.

These sentencings occurred September 23, 2011

Welcome to the new Muscatine County Attorney blog!

I've started this blog as a way to get more information to the public about what happens in the criminal justice system in Muscatine County.  I'll post press releases on criminal cases as well as other information that you'll find useful.