To the editor:
I note the article in your Jan. 23 edition [of the Ames Tribune], describing the felony charges against two Huxley Fire Dept/First Responders who were charged criminally subsequent to an audit conducted by the State of Iowa. This particular article describes how the charges had been dismissed. My client, Jana Erickson, was one of the two charged. The article headline reads: HUXLEY FIRE DEPARTMENT THEFT CASE DISMISSED. You go on to share with readers that there was insufficient evidence to go forward with the case. What you fail to mention is there was no evidence of the intent by either party to commit a crime. The Polk County prosecutor quickly recognized this after receiving the case from Story County and dismissed the case. As in almost any small town organization, bookkeeping and record keeping are not perfect because the people that keep these books are not professionals but volunteers. My client inadvertently charged a $25 book on a Mastercard account and was charged in Story County with a felony. Let me say that again: a felony! It was a simple mistake that has since been rectified. Your article alleges that a Story County deputy sheriff confronted the two about these charges, but neither had repaid them. The truth is that both were represented by counsel at the time and had been advised not to take any action or speak to law enforcement while the case was pending. This is advice given by any competent attorney to every criminal client. More importantly, since an adequate investigation was completed in Polk County, the $25 my client mistakenly charged to the organization’s credit card was repaid, and the charges were dismissed. No plea agreement, no deals, not even a request to pay court costs. A dismissal. What needs to be understood in this case is that my client is 68 years old and has never been arrested or charged with a crime prior to all of this. She has spent more than 30 years of her life dedicated to the Huxley Fire Department and has spent untold hours, year in and year out, organizing and working to better that organization without pay. She is a diabetic who was taken in handcuffs to jail by order of the Story County attorney after a woefully inadequate investigation, held overnight without her medication with her blood sugar out of control and then released on bond the next day. For a reason that remains unknown, Story County then transferred the case to Polk County, where after a thorough investigation the case was dismissed. Lots of questions here. Not the least of which is: How does my client get her reputation back?