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A Win for Investigative Journalism: Parker and Jones Secure Body Cam Footage from Maquoketa Police

June 24, 2020

In an impressive court victory, Shuttleworth & Ingersoll Attorneys Molly Parker and Sam Jones successfully championed client Maquoketa Sentinel-Press petition for the release of body cam footage recorded by the Maquoketa Police Department dating back to an incident on April 6, 2019 involving Jackson County’s Assistant Attorney Amanda Lassance. The court ruled in favor of the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press. Attorneys Parker and Jones were able to secure an injunction by the court, compelling the Maquoketa Police Department to release body cam footage and other investigative records concerning a call for service involving Amanda Lassance, a Jackson County Assistant City Attorney (ACA). In his ruling granting access to the records, Judge John Telleen wrote, “The central incident of this case raises an allegation that a prosecutor received lenient treatment when she herself was discovered committing a criminal offense. The Iowa Supreme Court has noted multiple times that there can be little doubt that allegations of leniency or cover-up with respect to the disciplining of those sworn to enforce the law are matters of great public concern.” (internal citations omitted). On the evening of April 6, 2019, Lassance’s boyfriend called 911, admitting that he and Lassance had been drinking, and accusing Lassance of assaulting him inside a vehicle. At the time of the call, Lassance’s boyfriend reported she had pulled over on the side of Highway 61, just south of the county line dividing Jackson and Clinton counties. Clinton County Sheriffs, Jackson County Sheriff, and the Maquoketa Police Department eventually arrived at the scene, with the Maquoketa Police Department being the first to arrive. Officers found Lassance in  her vehicle with beer cans scattered about, bloodshot eyes and slurring her speech. However, the officers at the scene did not administer a sobriety test, even when Lassance held up a beer can and said she had been drinking in the stopped car. Instead, officers drove Lassance to her office at the Jackson County courthouse and instructed her to not to go into the sheriff’s office, so she would not “get into more trouble than you already are.” Later that morning, the Jackson County Chief Deputy Sheriff drove Lassance back to her car. She eventually pleaded guilty to being the driver of the car and having an open container in the vehicle. The Maquoketa Sentinel-Press launched an investigation into the preferential treatment Lassance received when she was discovered impaired at the wheel, especially when she customarily prosecutes OWI infractions. While the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office provided the requested information to the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press, the Maquoketa Police Department refused to do so, leading to the present action. The Maquoketa Police Department withheld the records, citing Iowa Code Chapter 22, the Iowa Open Records Acts. The Police Department argued that the body cam footage and related records were police investigative records, and therefore protected from disclosure. However, the Department’s characterization ignored that this protection is in the public’s benefit, and there was no evidence of legitimate risk of harm resulting from disclosure of the records related to the April 6, 2019 911 call involving Lassance. Attorneys Molly Parker and Sam Jones have developed a practice focusing on First Amendment rights and media law. That work has included defending television and print media news organizations against libel actions, working to obtain government records through FOIA requests, and consulting in media investigations concerning Iowa law. Parker and Jones are among a small handful of Iowa lawyers who have been privileged to develop an expertise in this area and represent clients across the state of Iowa. They are currently taking new cases in this area. Interested clients should contact Shuttleworth & Ingersoll for more information.For more information about this case and the Sentinel-Press investigation, please visit the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press or The Gazette.*UPDATE: The City of Maquoketa has paid the entirety of the legal fees incurred by the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press while pursuing the FOIA action.  Other resources:


Samuel E. Jones

Molly M. Parker

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