The Maquoketa Sentinel Press reported on May 3 on an incident near that northeastern Iowa community that once again raises questions of why police body camera video is being kept from the public far too often.
A Jackson County prosecutor and her companion were charged with having an open contain of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
But the sheriff and county attorney in the adjacent Clinton County, where the incident occurred, refused to release the body camera video recorded by the sheriff’s deputies. That video could show whether the prosecutor – who often prosecutes drunken driving cases — showed signs of intoxication at the time of the incident.
The handling of the incident raises questions whether the Jackson County prosecutor received preferential treatment because of her close relationship with law enforcement officers or whether the Clinton County officers handled the case the same way they would for any other citizen.
Iowa’s public records law allows law officers to keep body camera video confidential, but the law does not require such secrecy.
Randy Evans, the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said, “The public has a right to know that law enforcement officers are enforcing the law in a fair and equitable way for everybody they serve.”
“When law enforcement becomes secretive and doesn’t respond to logical questions the public has, that gives rise to speculation that some people get special treatment.”
Here is the Maquoketa Sentinel Press’ report:
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Four weeks after police cited Assistant Jackson County Attorney Amanda Lassance and her companion Nick Shannon for possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, key details of how police handled the call remain undisclosed.
The question of whether police followed standard protocol remains publicly unanswered.
Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln has denied a public records request that could provide additional details.
And despite Lassance and Shannon pleading guilty to the open container citations April 15, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf remains unwilling to answer questions about the case.
Public record of the incident started with Shannon making a 911 call at 12:56 a.m. April 6 to the Jackson County Law Center to report that he and Lassance were stopped along U.S. Highway 61 near Welton, and that she had assaulted him.
According to the call log, he also told the dispatcher that he was holding a beer while making the call, and that he and Lassance had been drinking. The dispatcher then transferred the call to the Clinton County Law Center because Shannon was calling from outside Jackson County’s jurisdiction.
Deputies from both Jackson and Clinton counties responded to the call.
Police reports identified Lassance, who regularly prosecutes drunk driving cases in Jackson County, as the driver of the car, which was stopped along the northbound side of the highway in northern Clinton County.
Wolf, the prosecutor with jurisdiction in the case, would not provide additional information about how the case was handled.
“I can’t comment on questions like that,” Wolf said. “I can only speak to the filings I have in court.”
But, according to Randy Evans, the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, there is no law that prevents Wolf from providing further information.
While the law does not require the disclosure of those details from the law enforcement investigation, Evans said, “the law does not prevent the county attorney, sheriff, deputies, or other law enforcement from releasing those details.”
Responding to an information request filed under Iowa’s public record laws, Wolf provided copies of the citations police issued to Lassance and Shannon and copies of the dispatch call log, but he denied access to body camera footage that could provide details of how deputies conducted the call.
Jackson County Deputy Chad Roeder arrived first at the scene, followed by Clinton County deputies Andy Petersen and Mark Mahmens Jr. Roeder left the scene after deputies from Clinton County arrived.
When Lincoln was asked on Wednesday if his deputies had administered a sobriety test or a breathalyzer at the scene, Lincoln said that as far as he knew, they had not.
“Without looking or talking to the deputies that were there, I can’t answer why they didn’t do it,” Lincoln said. “But I know those deputies. If they had a reason to believe they could do so and felt it necessary, they would have. I have full faith my deputies were acting in full accordance of what they believe they could do to make a case, so they must have had reason to believe they didn’t.”
Lincoln said deputies “gave her [Lassance] a ride to a location in Maquoketa,” and that he didn’t know the details of how her car got home.
While Lincoln and Wolf denied access to body camera footage, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, responding to a separate open records request, showed The Sentinel-Press more than five minutes of video footage from Roeder’s body camera.
Footage shows the deputy asking Shannon why he was on the opposite side of the road from the car. Shannon said she (Lassance) told him to get as far away as possible.
Shannon picked up a dark-colored bag that had been leaning against a sign.
He said he had taken Lassance’s purse and keys.
Roeder repeatedly told Shannon that Clinton County would have to “figure out” the situation.
In the footage, Shannon tells deputies that he had cell phone video of Lassance punching him in the side of the face.
“Video doesn’t tell everything,” one of the Clinton County deputies said to Shannon.
Shannon told officers that he had asked Lassance to pull to the side of the road so he could urinate, then he grabbed her keys out of the ignition and her purse.
Shannon and Lassance had “both been drinking, I’m not going to lie,” Shannon told deputies in the body camera video.
Shannon told deputies that Lassance punched him but that he did not touch her.
A Clinton County deputy shined his flashlight toward Shannon’s face and commented that he did not see any marks or blood.
Then the video shows Roeder walking away from the scene before the footage ends.
Roeder’s body camera footage does not capture any images of Lassance.
The recording of Shannon’s 54-second telephone conversation with a Clinton County dispatcher provided numerous details of his call.
He told the dispatcher that he and his girlfriend were “pulled over on the side of the ditch” heading north on Highway 61.
“She’s multiply [sic] beat the shit out of me while she was driving,” Shannon told the dispatcher.
“She threw a cooler out the window,” Shannon said, according to the dispatcher’s log. “I’ve taken her keys from her because I don’t want her to injure anyone else.”
After the dispatcher asked Shannon to stay on the line, Shannon said, “She better lose her goddamned job.”
Evans, of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said it is cases such as this one “when law enforcement becomes secretive and doesn’t respond to logical questions the public has, that gives rise to speculation that some people get special treatment.”
Which, Evans said, can lead to a lack of public trust in the police force. “That’s the reason this is all so very unfortunate,” he said. “The public has a right to know that law enforcement officers are enforcing the law in a fair and equitable way for everybody they serve.”
Lassance declined to comment for this story, and Shannon did not respond to attempts to contact him.