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4.23 Benton County Attorney Response

4.23 Benton County Attorney Response

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Published by Jennifer Hemmingsen
Benton County Attorney David Thompson's response to Benton Community School District's statement regarding the handling of a 2005 teacher misconduct investigation and subsequent resignation.
Benton County Attorney David Thompson's response to Benton Community School District's statement regarding the handling of a 2005 teacher misconduct investigation and subsequent resignation.

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RPR-23-2010 17:42

BENTON CTY. ATTORNEY

319 472 3501

P.02

Press Release: For Immediate Dissemination:

April 23,. 2010

Benton County Attorney's Reply to Benton Community School District Response Regarding Recent Reports Concerning Personnel Matter

Today Benton Community School District issued their public Re~ stating that certain "inaccuracies" have been reported in the media regarding. their handling of a former Benton Community School teacher's sexually inappropriate emails to several Benton Community School students aged 11 to 14. Unforttmately, the District Response fails to mention or acknowledge the following:

1. Documents obtained in August, 2009, from the District indicate that they knew of the teacher's inappropriate conduct with students as early·as November 21, 2005;

2. The District never reported this matter to the Benton County Sheriff's Department, Benton County Attorney's Office Of the Deparlnient of Human Services at any time in 2QOS, 2006. 2007 or 2008.

3. When a Benton Coumy Detective attempted to interview.the Superintendent in on January 9, 2006, concerning this matter, he refused to ~ many relevant questions, citing the confidential nature of this ''personnel''JDiIlter. The Superintendent told the Detective the District would require a Coon order to release the School's investigation. This caused delay which hindered. the Sheriff Department's investigation ofthis matter.

4. Although the District did eventually supply investiptive materials to the Benton County Attorneys Office in February 2006) they failed to mention that they would not honor the first court orcier obtained for this information. Instead, their attorney requited a second order (even thou,ih the first was signed by an Iowa District Court Judge). This resulted in further delay in the Sheriff Department's investigation of this matter.

5. The District failed to provide all of its investisation into th.i$ matter to Benton County in February, 2006. The State realized it had not received. the entire District investigation file only after receiving information from current School District Attorney Douglas Oelschlaeger. The State furtberleamed from Attorney Oelscblaeger that he himself was having difficulty retrieving the investigative file from the fonner attorney for the District. See enclosed

APR-23-2010 17:42

BENTON CTY. ATTORNEY

J19 472 3601

P.03

copies of letters from Benton County Attorney to Douglas,Oelschlaeger dated February 25) 2009 and May 13, 2009.

6. The State finally received a copy of the District's invest:iption into this matter on August 10.2009. See letter from Doug Oelschlaeger,tQ Benton County

Attomey David Thompson dated August 7.2009. '

7. These materials received on August 10, 2009, contained additional Information that was not produced by the District in February, 2006. As of this date, the State is still UDSW'e as to whether or not it has received a complete copy of the District' s investigation into this J:D.at;tel.

The Benton County Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department will continue in its efforts to work with the Benton Community School District in order "to ,keep our communities and schools safe. However, the District's recent press release is disappointing for multiple reasons. First, the District's claims ~~acie$" are contained in recent media articles. These articles not only appear to be factually correet, but can be verified by an examination of public record deeuments. Second, and more importantly. the recent District Response does not address the underlying problem here: they failed to report this very serious matter to Benton County Law enforcement officials. Law enforcement investigations offer the following advantages over school investiptions :

1 , Law enforcement officers have specialized training and expertise in these matters, versus non-trained school officials attempting an "in-house" investigation.

2. Law enforcement has multiple tools available to it that schools lack. For instance, law enforcement can obtain Court Orders for various kinds of records, including cell phone records, text messages; emailSand internet service provider information that schools cannot. Law eniof(tJD.ent can obtain Search Warrants that allow evidence to be collected oil of school grounds; schools cannot obtain warrants.

3. Law enforcement can utilize the services and resources of agencies like the St.

Luke's Child Protection Center. Local law enforcement can. and does, utilize the services of other highly and specifically trained ageocieslof&anizations like our area Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab. Law. enforcement agencies in Benton County routinely work with other Federal, State'and Loca.llaw enforcement agencies such as the U nited State Postal Service Investigators) United States Attorney's Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, to name a few. Simply put, schools conducting their own investigations are shutting out these highly valuable officers their resources.

RPR-23-2010 17:43

BENTON CTY. ATTORNEY

319 472 3501

,

Simply put, the District's resources in this particular matter were not greater than those available to law enforcement.

4. The District did conduct its own forensic analysis of two computers wed by teacher in question at school. Law enforcement offi.cers with expertise and experience in courtroom testimony could have done this at no charge to the District, and could have immediately followed up with any leads they may have obtained. Further, forensic analysis done by the schools is inherent with the following risk that the information they obtain my not be admissible in court in a subsequent prosecution.

5. The School District fails to mention any Search Wammts"'Qley obtained in their investigation for good reason: they cannot obtain'them. They felt it relevant to search computers that the teacher in question used at school, but apparently it did not occur to them that it would be at least ~y important to report this matter to law enforcement officials so that a search warrant could be obtained for home computers,

6. An investigation by trained law enforcement officers (versus a school investigation by untrained or inadequately trained indiVulu8Is) is a professional, impartial investigation that the public C811 trust the results of. A schools investigation of"one of their own;' does not convey the same degree of public trust.

7. Cost. What did the District's investigation cost? Law e,nforcement officials do not bill by the hour, and the District would not have in~ any charges for a thorough law enforcement investigation.

8. And finally, the District does not have the authority to file criminal charges should the situation warrant prosecution.

Benton Community Schools have a long. proud and storied tndition in the education of our young, and in the hearts and minds of the communities that make up Benton County. Benton County law enforcement agencies will continue in its effort to work with the District, as it has in the past in order to keep OUI schools safe. However, in the future, confidentiality must not be used as a shield to protect the disclosure of critically important infonnation to law enforcement. It would be the hope of all in the Benton County law enforcement community that the Benton Community School District would publicly affinn their intention to report matters such as this :itnmediately to law enforcement in the future. Our ehildrl:n deserve no less.

Benton County Attomey David C. Thompson can be contacted at 319-472-2436 for questions concerning this press release.

A~R-23-2010 17:43

BENTON CT'I'. ATTORNEY

319 472 3601

F'.05

BENTON COUNTY ATTORNEY Third Floor, Courthouse Vinton, Iowa 52349

(319) 472·2436

(319) 472·3601 Fax

David C. Thompson County Attorney

Anthony H. Janney Lisa M, Epp Assistant County Attorneys

FebnJary 25.2009

Doudas R. Oelsehlaeger Shuttleworth &, Innersoll, P .L.C, 115 Third Street S.E., Suite 500 P.O. Box 2107

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

VIA FAX TO: 319-365·8443 And Regular Mail

Re: Law Enfor<:ement Concerns with Benton Community Schools

Dear Mr. Oelschlaeger:

This letter win confirm our conversation of February 20, 2009, In 148.t conversation we discussed the previous suspensions of seven Benton Community students and a situation involving very alarming behavior from a former Benton Community School teacher.

I have enclosed for your review the e-mails sent by the fonner teacher' to a minor (under age 14) Benton Community student. The emails are alarming. In them the funner teacher asks the minor questions about the minor's sex life, tomm~cates his desire to talk. in greater detail with the minor about her sex life, offers in to. viSit in person with the minor, and in another asks if she has taken any photographs of these activities. Behavior of this type requires immediate law enforcement intervention and investigation. I am sure you will immediately realize that law enforcement has many more tools at its disposal to investigate a situation like this one than the school system,: such as the ability to obtain search warmnts and utilize investigative subpoenas, the abiiity to utilize the St. Luke's Child Protection Center, the ability to have forensic analysis done, etc.

The Benton Community School system falls under the law enforcement jwisdietion of the Benton County Sheriff's Department. At no time wss our Sheriffs Department notified by Benton Community of the situation involving the former tetcher; I have verified this fact by talking to the Sheriff, Chief Deputy, and Detective Jerry Michael. I find this to be very disturbing, and it is my hope that this letter will serve to foster better communication between the Scheel and Law Enforcement. We must always be mindful of our need to cooperate with each other in order to protect our children.. I do not feel thAt was accomplished in this matter.

RPR-23-2010 17:4]

BENTON CTY. RTTORNEY

319 472 3501

P.06

We also talked about the situation involving the SW:lpension/expulsion of seven Benton Community students and my appearance at a School Board meeting regarding this situation. From law enforcement' 3 perspective, there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the seven with a criminal offense. However, what was more concerning to me was it appeared that exculpatory evidence concerning these individuals that was in the possession of the School was not communicated to the School Board members when the met to consider the punislunent of these students. Specifically, more than one Board member commented that they had not been informed that one of the students had provided a clean urinalysis test on the day oftbe incident and had not been informed of a negative field test for the presence of marijuana by a Benton COUDty .Sheriff's Deputy.

Finally, we talked about the readily apparent inconsistencies of.expul~ing students for an entire school year for experimenting with a substance that most likely ·was not a controlled substance, while not referring to law enforcement a school teacher that appears to be enisging in sexually predatory behavior with an underage student. In the former case, the students were severely punished. In the latter, the teacher was allowed to resign, presumably keep his teaching certificate, and law enforcement was never notified so that a proper investigation could be completed. It would seem. that 'good conduct' should be a policy for both student and faculty.

Please feel free 10 contact me with any further questions you may have.

Sincerely yours,

David C. Thompson Benton County Attorney

enclosures

RPR-23-2010 17:43

BENTON CTY. ATTORNEY

]19 472 3501

P.07

BENTON COUNTY ATTORNEY Third Floor. Courthouse Vinton. Iowa 52349

(31.9) 472·2436

(319) 472·3601 Pax:

David C. Thompson County Attorney

Anthony H. 1 anney Lisa M. Epp Assistant County Attorneys

May 13.2009

Douglas R. Oelschlaeger Shuttleworth &. Innersoll, P .L.C. 115 Third Street S.E., Suite SOO P.o. Box 2107

Cedar Rapids, IA 5240 1

VIA FAX TO: 319-365-8443 And Regular Mail

Re: Law Enforcement Concerns with Benton Community Schools

Dear Mr. Oelsehlaeger:

This letter will serve as a follow.up to our meeting on Thursday, ~pri130 ,2009; this meeting was attended by Detective Jerry Michael of the Benton Courity Sheriff's Department.

First, we covered the information concerning the former Benton Conm;runity teacher who was. sending sexually inappropriate e-mailstominorfemalestudents.This disturbing behavior was never disclosed or reported to my office and/or the Beetcn County Sheri.ft s office. We have concluded this as fact by confirming it with Sherifi'Fo~ Chief Deputy Mike Ferguson. Detective Michael, and Sheriff's Office MlDB8er Jacki Michael. Further7 you will recall Detective Michael's statement to you that when he attempted to gain information in his investigation into this matter ~ the Superintcildent refused to provide anything meaningful, citing "confidentiality'', You will also recall how Detective Michael and I detailed how Jaw enforcement's investigation of Mr. Draaezol was thwarted by the actions of Benton Conununity Schools.

Further, I allowed you in this meeting to review and receive a copy of the infonnation provided to my office from the Gruhn law finn. You detailed for us how Mr. Gruhn has acknowledged that witness statements from the children (and presumaJ;>ly others such as their parents) were obtained by Mr. Gruhn and that he will Dot provide them to you without a grant of indemnity to his law firm because the children and their families were promised "confidentiality" by Benton Community.l However.:Mr. Gruhn has indicated

I I have two problems with this situaSion. Fot,. I beUcve that Benton QJJnlDunity baa • ri.&ht 10 possess a (:(Ipy ofaJl investigative mar.erial5 prepaml md mainminod. by its fonner 81tomey. SecoDd, why would people be told their informatiOD would be kept '-'confidential"1 By doing 50, Be.D.um Community agreed

APR-23-2010 17:43

BENTON CTY. ATTORNEY

319 472 3501

P.D8

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these witness statements were provided to my office pursuant to, the CoUnty Attorney Subpoena obtained in early 2006. Obviously, as we told you and as you.u.uld see from the documents provided by Benton Community, these wltnels slatemeats in fact were Dot produced to my office. Accordingly, 1 hereby request tbatyou obtain these records and provide them to my olliee .s 100D as is rea,o.ably possible..

We also visited about other instances in which Benton Community $c)lools failed 10 notify the Sheriffs Department and the Department of Human Services as required by the mandatory reporting statute. On March 27, 2009 an eleven year old advised her teacher at the Keystone elementary school that she had been touched in a sexually inappropriate manner by an adult male in the student's household. The school did not report this incident until Monday, March 30, 2Q09. The student:reports she was told to go home and tell her mother what had happened. The student came back to school on Monday, March 30) 2009 and reported to the School that she had been too afraid to tell her mother what had happened. The School then reported this matter:. to Benton County DHS at 8:20 am, Essentially! this child was sent home over the weekend to the household of the alleged perpetrator without any report being made to DHS or law enforcement. As I a150 told you, the DHS jnvestigator who iuvestig~ this incident mentioned to me that Benton Community Schools has a reputation for not reponing matters that should be reported.

We also visited about a juvenile sex offense that occurred in 2005. Detective Michael and I recounted how a male Benton Community High School student offered to give a ride to sebool to a fellow female high school student. Instead of driving her to school, he drove her to a rural cemetery and forced her into the back seat and attempted to sexually assault her. The male attempted to force her pants down, informed her that she was going to have sex with him whether- she wanted to or not, and bruised her neck. The victim fought the perpetrator for several minutes until he gave up, and agreed to drive her to school. Upon arriving at school, she went immediately to the office and reported what had happened. The School did not report this incident to law enf~t. Detective Michael found out about this incident the next day) when the victim's mother called him to inquire as to whether or not this matter was being investigated .. The.juvenile male was charged with the offense of Assault with Intent to Commit Sexual Abuse (which is a sex offense) and he entered II guilty plea to that charge. This incident again raises the question why did Benton Community Schools fail to immediately report an attempted rape to law enforcement?

We also visited about an incident in which a former principal found marijuana in a school, aad told Detective Michael and a DHS investigator about it well' after the fact. In that situation) the principal stated that he could not identifY who had possessed the marijuana so he threw it away. We talked about how the preferable way to handle that situation would have been to call the Sheriff's office so that the illegal substance could have been properly seized and disposed of.

that this infonnation would Deyer be turned QVeT to law eoforwmeM. An.d, to this day~ Bentoll Commun.ity Schools has nO[ provided this infonnalion to law enforcement.

RPR-23-2D10 1?:4J

BENTON CTY. ATTORNEY

31S 472 3601

P.DS

The matters we reported to you are serious and involve the safety of-the, students and the public as a whole. Benton Community Schools need to examine why they are failiq to report such serious matters to law enforcement. They then need to i.ntplement a policy that mandates prompt reporting to the authorities.

Please feel free to contact me with any further questions you may have.

Sincerely yours,

David C. Thompson Benton County Attorney

APR-23-2010 17:4]

BENTON CTY. RTTORNEY

319 472 3501

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August 7, 2009

David Thompson Benton County Attorney 111 East Fourth Street Third Floor, Courthouse Vinton, IA 52345

RECE,IVED

" I ,t 1 n 'LtlrJ~:l' i"\l..h1 ,v \;'

BENTON CO. Am.

RE: Walter Drahozal

Dear David:

Pursuant to your ongoing investigatiotl of Walter Drahozal I a~ glad to let you know we finally obtained the Drahozal tile from Brian Gruhn's office. 'Based upon Brian's previous statements to me that he had previously sent to you statements of witnesses interviews, I am enclosing another copy of these witness interviews. I am' also enclosing the non-witness interview portions of the file. I believe you previously had these in, your possession but I wanted to make sure that you had the complete file.

There are also four computer discs that are being produced to us. We will review these to see if there is any additional relevant information and get you a copy. '

Contact me should you have any questions.

Very truly yours,

DRQ:sc Enclosures

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