Allamakee County Attorney’s Office Year-End Report to the County for 2020 and 2021

submitted by Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke

In 2020 and 2021 our office, like almost every institution across the country, had to deal with the COVID virus and the ensuing fall-out it created. After Governor Reynolds signed an order prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people, the Iowa Supreme Court suspended most in-person court services beginning on March 17, 2020 to limit in-person services in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Many restrictions were put in place and many government buildings were closed. Our court system in the state of Iowa, however, did not shut down.

All 101 clerk of court offices remained open for Iowans with emergency matters, and judicial offices utilized technology to conduct many court proceedings remotely. With Iowa’s electronic filing system, the public had the ability to file court documents and access information electronically on their computers at home.  A one-year automatic extension was granted in most pending cases.

The Allamakee County Attorney’s office continued to prosecute cases and resolve as many matters as possible. In the combined calendar years of 2020 and 2021, the office had an intake of 515 cases, including 84 felonies, 57 aggravated misdemeanors, 77 serious misdemeanors, 26 juvenile referrals, 25 mental health referrals, 144 simple misdemeanor/traffic and 82 Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) cases.

A total of 14 individuals were sentenced to the Iowa Department of Corrections prison system or extradited to federal/state penitentiaries elsewhere to serve sentences for crimes such as: Lascivious Acts with a Child, Sexual Abuse, Burglary in the Third Degree, Theft in the Second Degree and Possession of Methamphetamine - Third Offense.

One unique situation brought on by the COVID mandates was a jury trial held in the Waukon Banquet Center. Due to the larger capacity of the building and already available seating, we were able to hold jury selection with over 60 people present and still maintain a safe social distance between individuals.

The judge and court reporter were seated on the stage and tables were laid out in front for the lawyers to make their arguments.

Given the nature of the case, a representative from the Iowa Attorney General’s office was available as co-counsel. The individual was found to be a sexually violent predator and a civil commitment order was issued. This prevented the individual from returning to the community after serving a prison sentence for sexual assault.

The Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders, located in Cherokee, provides a secure, long-term, and highly-structured setting to treat sexually violent predators (SVP) who have served their prison terms, but who, in a separate civil trial, have been found likely to commit further violent sexual offenses.

This program was created by the 1998 Sexually Violent Predators Act of Iowa to provide secure, inpatient treatment for sexual offenders who are believed to be a high risk for sexually re-offending. Inpatient treatment is indefinite, with the length of commitment dependent upon the time required for each individual to complete the criteria for advancement through five treatment phases.

I greatly appreciate the owners of the Waukon Banquet Center for making their facility available and allowing us to hold trial there.

The Allamakee County Attorney’s Office also has the responsibility of collecting delinquent criminal fines, surcharges, court costs, restitution, and any other financial obligations owing to the State of Iowa from Allamakee County criminal cases. The collection process works by allowing a defendant who is delinquent on their financial obligations to enter a payment plan with our office to repay their debt in full.

Delinquent defendants enter into “CAPPs” which stands for County Attorney Payment Plans. In the past, when private collectors were in charge, a defendant would be assessed a 25% penalty on any delinquent amounts, which drove them even further into debt. The collection companies would also take a large portion of the funds collected as their fee.

The Allamakee County Attorney’s office does not charge any penalties and once a defendant meets certain conditions we can even help them get their vehicle registered and their driver’s license back if it was suspended due to nonpayment of fines.

Defendants who enter into payment plans are not the only beneficiaries of our collection program. Our local county government is allowed to keep a portion of the debt that is collected and our Supervisors in the past have used this revenue to help fund projects around the county.

Under the fine collection program we collected a total of $85,702.40 in fiscal year 2020-2021 with $27,023.27 of that money going directly to Allamakee County. Victim/Witness Coordinator Aleesa Baako has been running the program since February of 2019 and has done an excellent job in helping collect this extra revenue for the County.

For those wishing to learn more about the Iowa judicial system at large, a podcast, “In the Balance,” is offered by the Iowa Judicial Branch. This podcast expands on the idea of open and transparent courts. The purpose of the podcast is to go beyond the courtroom doors to learn about the Iowa judicial system and the many people who work for our state’s courts.

Each monthly episode explores different areas of our state-level court system. New episodes are available the last Tuesday of every month.