Branstad attorney asks Iowa Supreme Court to stop trial
DES MOINES — The attorney for former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has filed an unusual request to the state Supreme Court that seeks to stop a civil trial now in its third day, arguing rulings by a judge are unconstitutional.
Branstad and two former staff members were sued by former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey, who claims he was pressured to quit after Branstad took over as governor in 2010 and cut his pay cut by a third. Godfrey claims it was because he’s gay. Branstad denies he knew Godfrey was gay.
An eight-person jury is hearing the case in Polk County District Court.
Branstad attorney Frank Harty says in a document filed with the Supreme Court Thursday that the trial judge is allowing Godfrey to put on trial Branstad’s positions on gay marriage and the Republican Party’s “anti-gay” views.
Wisconsin budget panel could approve new road fees
MADISON, Wis. — The Legislature’s 16-member budget could decide on its own to impose fees of any amount on Wisconsin drivers to pay for roads under a provision the panel has approved.
The proposal was added to the state budget Thursday night. It would have to win approval by the full Legislature and be signed by Gov. Tony Evers before taking effect.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday that the proposal allows the Joint Finance Committee to establish new fees based on how many miles vehicles drive starting in 2023. The rest of the Legislature would not have a say.
Republicans currently control both the committee and the Legislature.
Some states have moved toward mileage-based fees to pay for roads because gas consumption is expected to drop as people buy more fuel efficient and electric vehicles.
Iowa regents extend contracts of university presidents
AMES, Iowa — The Iowa Board of Regents has extended contracts and raised some payments in order to keep all three university system presidents on the job.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported that the regents took the action Thursday for the presidents at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
The board approved contract extensions through June 2023 for University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld and Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen. Northern Iowa President Mark Nook’s contract was extended through June 2025, with the option to renew for an additional two years.
They won’t receive salary increases, but regents opted to extend and, in some cases, increase payments to their deferred contribution plans.
CHICAGO — An attorney for a former Chicago alderman who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges is asking a judge not to send his client to prison.
Attorney Christopher T. Grohman argued Thursday against prison time for 67-year-old Willie Cochran, telling a federal judge that previous prison sentences for nearly three dozen Chicago City council members have “not done anything to curb Chicago’s tidal wave of aldermanic corruption cases.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Grohman instead asked the judge for probation with six months of home confinement for the 67-year-old Cochran.
Cochran pleaded guilty in March to one felony count of wire fraud for spending campaign funds on personal purchases, including his daughter’s college tuition. The admission ended the former police officer’s City Council career.
Cochran’s sentencing is set for June 20.
Wisconsin jury awards $15 million to family in bicyclist’s death
MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin jury has returned a $15 million civil verdict for the family of a woman struck and killed while riding her bicycle to work, but her parents won’t receive near that amount because of a state law that caps part of the award.
Brian Hodgson was not charged in the crash that killed 23-year-old Emilly Zhu. The civil verdict found Hodgson 100 percent at fault.
Jurors determined Zhu’s parents should receive $10 million for loss of society and companionship and $5 million for pain and suffering. The family’s attorney, Clayton Griessmeyer, says the $10 million award will be automatically reduced to $350,000, which is the cap in Wisconsin. There is no cap for pain and suffering.
Hodgson’s attorney, Ward Richter, told the State Journal by email that they “anticipate further proceedings.”
July trial set for man accused of shooting Davenport officer
DAVENPORT, Iowa — A July trial has been scheduled for a man accused of shooting a Davenport police officer.
Scott County District Court records say 28-year-old Brett Dennis Sr. entered written pleas of not guilty Thursday to attempted murder and other charges. His trial is set to begin July 8.
Prosecutors say Dennis shot Davenport Police Officer Ryan Leabo on April 25 after a foot chase and struggle. Dennis had run away when Leabo tried to talk to him and another man. They’d been seen rummaging through a car.
Prosecutors say one shot from Dennis hit Leabo in a leg and a second gunshot was stopped by Leabo’s bulletproof vest. The release says Leabo then shot Dennis in a leg. Dennis later told investigators he wanted Leabo to shoot him.
People in SW Illinois county advised to consider evacuating
WATERLOO, Ill. — A sheriff in southwestern Illinois is urging some residents to consider evacuating because of the high level of the Mississippi River.
Monroe County is south of St. Louis. The National Weather Service says the river could crest at 45.9 feet by Sunday at St. Louis, just 4 feet below the record set in 1993.
Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said more rain could complicate a “rapidly evolving situation.” He says the crest has changed many times this week. People who leave their homes can stay at Valmeyer High School, which has been designated as a shelter.
The Illinois and Missouri and transportation departments have closed many roads in the region.