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Across the Region: Iowa judge accused of assaulting unfaithful husband

IOWA

Judge accused of assaulting unfaithful husband

An eastern Iowa judge has been charged with domestic assault for allegedly throwing a water bottle at her unfaithful husband.

Mark Roeder, attorney for Judge Stephanie Rattenborg of Manchester, said his client intends to plead not guilty. Her first court appearance on the charge is scheduled for July 12.

According to court documents, a Delaware County sheriff’s deputy responded to a 911 call from Rattenborg’s husband Friday evening. The documents say Randall Rattenborg told the deputy that his wife threw the water bottle at him and began hitting him because she’d learned he was having an extramarital affair. He suffered a minor lip injury.

The documents say Stephanie Rattenborg admitted throwing the water bottle but denied hitting her husband.

 

Parolee takes plea deal in law office embezzlement case

An office worker charged with embezzling from a Clear Lake law firm has taken a plea deal.

Julie Fingalsen, 45, is scheduled to be sentenced July 14. She pleaded guilty to theft as a habitual offender. Prosecutors dropped a forgery charge in exchange for Fingalsen’s plea.

Prosecutors say she forged and deposited or cashed more than a dozen checks while working for the Eastman Law Office in Clear Lake between Feb. 1 and March 28.

Fingalsen was given probation in 2010 after pleading guilty to stealing more than $41,000 from her employer in Mason City, a chiropractor. In April 2013 she was given 10 years in prison for stealing nearly $50,000 from another Mason City employer, an optometrist. She was paroled in July 2014.

 

WISCONSIN

Court reinstates sex crime conviction

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a former longtime high school basketball coach, reinstating his conviction in a sex crime case involving a 15-year-old student.

The case turned on whether a flip-style cellphone is a “computerized communication system” used to facilitate a child sex crime. Rory McKellips, a former coach at Mosinee and Athens high schools in central Wisconsin, was convicted in 2013 of using a computer to facilitate a sex crime and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

McKellips, 59, argued that sending texts and picture messages between flip-style phones doesn’t meet the state law definition for “computerized communication system” because the phones don’t use the internet. He also argued that the state law was unconstitutionally vague.

A state appeals court last year overturned his conviction and granted him a new trial, saying the jury was given improper instructions related to whether the phone was a computer.

But the state Supreme Court, in a 4-2 decision written by Justice Rebecca Bradley, sided with state prosecutors and reinstated his conviction. The court said that while the flip-style phones in question “may not be as advanced as some modern cellphones, McKellips’ use of it satisfied the definition of computerized.”

The court determined that state law does not require use of the internet to satisfy the definition of “computerized computer system.” It also rejected his arguments that the law is vague and that the jury at his trial was given misleading instructions about whether the cellphone was a computerized messaging system.

Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, arguing that the law in question is unconstitutionally vague because “computerized communication system” is not defined and its meaning is not easily understood.

McKellips, of Mosinee, was formerly a coach at Mosinee High School and was hired in 2010 to coach basketball at nearby Athens High School.

The court record shows that McKellips began having cellphone contact with a 14-year-old girl on the team in December 2010. Their contact continued until September 2011 when the girl’s father found a secret cellphone McKellips had given her.

Police determined that between December 2010 and July 2011, there were 8,324 texts exchanged between McKellips and the girl. The girl testified at trial that during that time they had sexual contact four times.

McKellips was found not guilty of repeated sexual assault of a child and exposing his genitals,

McKellips’ attorney, Scott Swid, said it was a “bad day for justice in the state of Wisconsin.”

“Terms such as a ‘computerized communications system’ should be clearly defined by the Legislature and the court should hold the Legislature to that task,” Swid said. “Drafting legislation should not be that hard.”

 

Civil rights lawsuit against Racine settled for $100,000

The city of Racine has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who says he was handcuffed and beaten outside his home after police came to investigate a car accident he wasn’t involved in.

The City Council has agreed to pay Miguel Veguilla $100,000.

The lawsuit filed by Veguilla last July says his girlfriend had been in an accident, left her information with another driver and left the scene before police arrived. Police found the woman’s vehicle at Veguilla’s house. The complaint says Veguilla was sleeping and didn’t know about the accident.

City Attorney Scott Letteney says it seemed more appropriate to settle than move forward with a trial, given the circumstances of the case.

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