MAQUOKETA, Iowa — A judge this week ruled that the Maquoketa Police Department must turn over to the local newspaper body camera footage from the night that a prosecutor was cited for an open container violation.
Sycamore Media, the owner of the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press, sued the department in November seeking the footage from an April 6, 2019, incident involving Assistant Jackson County Attorney Amanda Lassance.
“The central incident of this case raises an allegation that a prosecutor received lenient treatment when she herself was discovered committing a criminal offense,” noted Iowa District Court Judge John Telleen in his ruling in favor of the newspaper.
According to court records, Nicholas Shannon called authorities early April 6 to report that he had been assaulted by Lassance while she was driving them on U.S. 61. The couple had pulled over near 140th Street, which is in Clinton County, about nine miles south of Maquoketa.
Though Lassance was found in the driver’s seat, admitted to drinking and had “bloodshot” and “watery” eyes and slurred speech, Clinton County Sheriff’s Department deputies never conducted field sobriety tests, according to documents obtained by the Telegraph Herald.
Maquoketa police and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department deputies also responded to the scene. A Clinton County deputy ultimately gave Lassance a ride to the county offices in Maquoketa, where she spent the night.
She later pleaded guilty in Iowa District Court of Clinton County to having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.
Both the Telegraph Herald and the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press filed open records requests with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department. The agency provided camera footage, 911 recordings and other documents.
However, requests for similar information and recordings from Maquoketa police have been denied repeatedly, according to the Sentinel-Press suit.
Telleen listed multiple reasons why that footage should be released in compliance with the state’s open-records law.
“Although Maquoketa police officers had only limited involvement in the incident and no control over the ultimate charging decision, the records they generated are significant because Maquoketa police officers were the first to arrive on the scene and interact with Lassance,” he wrote. “Their squad car and body camera footage will show a portion of the incident not found in the public records already provided by the Clinton (County) and Jackson County sheriff’s departments. This information will give the public a fuller understanding of the incident in question.”
In coverage of the decision, the Sentinel-Press reported that it is “waiting to hear details on when the video footage will be provided” and that “the newspaper plans to seek recovery of all fees in the case.”