# Crime



Unlike Whitver, Miller-Meeks put herself in legal jeopardy

During the first election cycle after redistricting, it’s typical for many Iowa politicians to move, seeking more favorable territory or to avoid a match-up against another incumbent. What set this year apart from a normal campaign under a new map: major controversies related to those address changes.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver faced a formal challenge to his voter registration, after a resident of his new district claimed he didn’t meet the constitutional requirement to be on the November ballot.

And this week, Iowa Starting Line’s Pat Rynard was first to report that U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks declared herself to be living at a friend’s house, on the last day she could change her voter registration without showing proof of address.

While Whitver played it close to the line, he successfully laid the groundwork for his voter registration change. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald determined last week that Whitver’s declared residency at a condo in Grimes was valid. The top Iowa Senate Republican also avoided any voter fraud allegations by not casting a ballot in the 2022 primary or general elections.

In contrast, the circumstances surrounding Miller-Meeks’ address change raise legitimate questions about whether she committed election misconduct or perjury, which are both class “D” felonies in Iowa.

Staff for Miller-Meeks did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about her voter registration. Nor did State Senator Chris Cournoyer, whose Scott County home the member of Congress now claims as a residence.

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How Iowa Supreme Court's McDermott, Oxley have decided big cases

Disclosure: I am a plaintiff in an open records lawsuit that is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal. (The governor’s office appealed a lower court ruling against the state’s motion to dismiss our case.) That litigation has nothing to do with this post.

On the back side of Iowa’s general election ballot, voters have a chance to vote yes or no on allowing two Iowa Supreme Court justices, two Iowa Court of Appeals judges, and dozens of lower court judges to remain on the bench.

No organizations are campaigning or spending money against retaining Justices Dana Oxley and Matthew McDermott, whom Governor Kim Reynolds appointed in 2020.

Nevertheless, I expect the justices to receive a lower share of the retention vote than most of their predecessors. Shortly after the newest justices were part of a controversial ruling on abortion in June, the Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom found a partisan split in attitudes toward the Iowa Supreme Court, with a significant share of Democrats and independents disapproving of the court’s work.

This post seeks to provide context on how the justices up for retention have approached Iowa Supreme Court decisions that may particularly interest Bleeding Heartland readers.

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Turn the ballot over and vote no on Public Measure 1

Katie Jones lives in Des Moines with her family. She is passionate about gun violence prevention.

Gun safety is on the ballot in Iowa this year. Voters will consider a state constitutional amendment called Public Measure 1, which states, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

The last sentence makes this amendment very different from the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, and more extreme. What is strict scrutiny and how would it change the legal landscape?

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Help cover Pieper Lewis' restitution

An Iowa teenager who was abused and sex trafficked will be forced to pay $150,000 in restitution to the estate of her alleged rapist, under a decision issued on September 13.

Polk County District Court Judge David Porter did not order Pieper Lewis to serve time in an adult prison when he sentenced her for voluntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 death of Zachary Brooks. Instead, he accepted the prosecutors’ recommendation for five years of probation while Lewis lives at the Fresh Start Women’s Center in Des Moines. The judge also agreed to the defense attorneys’ request for deferred judgment, which means Lewis may be able to have the crimes expunged from her record if she abides by the terms of her probation.

But Iowa law requires restitution payments of at least $150,000 to the victim’s estate in “all criminal cases in which the offender is convicted of a felony in which the act or acts committed by the offender caused the death of another person.” Lewis’ attorneys had argued the law should not apply to their client, who was 15 years old and homeless when she was exploited by multiple men, and repeatedly raped by Brooks. But Porter rejected the defense arguments.

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Iowa Republicans go quiet on Trump search

Iowa’s Republican members of Congress were quick to cast doubt on the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Representatives Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra demanded more information from the Justice Department about the reasons for the “unprecedented” action. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks suggested that investigating Trump was a waste of taxpayer money.

But those GOP officials had nothing to say publicly after an inventory released on August 12 showed the former president had been keeping classified, secret, and top secret documents at the Mar-a-Lago resort.

Multiple news outlets published the search and seizure warrant for Trump’s residence, as well as the receipt listing property FBI agents took on August 8. Four items were described as “Miscellaneous Top Secret Documents,” and one was listed as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents.” Those are high levels of classification, used for material that “could cause ‘exceptionally grave danger’ to national security.”

SCI stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information, which “may be an electronic intercept or information provided by a human informant in a foreign country.” The Washington Post reported on August 11 that “Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought” in the search.

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