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Sheriff won't honor arrests made in eastern Iowa town

Says he cannot trust the town's officers and has banned them from the county law enforcement center.

Posted: Jun 13, 2019 12:46 PM

DURANT, Iowa (AP) — An unusual circumstance let a speeding drunken driver avoid a trip to jail after her recent arrest in this small eastern Iowa town: the sheriff isn't honoring arrests made in Durant.

Saying he cannot rely on the truthfulness of officers in the farming community of 1,800 people about 165 miles (265 kilometers) east of Des Moines, Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington has declared that his jail will not book any suspects whom they arrest for the foreseeable future. He has barred Durant officers from setting foot in the county law enforcement center and ordered his own deputies to not base any arrests on the observations of Durant officers.

Wethington's directive, issued last month, has won him praise from residents, who see it as a rare public stand against police misconduct by a law enforcement official. But it has escalated his long-running feud with Dawn Smith, chairwoman of the Cedar County Board of Supervisors, whose husband, Robert Smith, is the Durant officer at the center of the sheriff's allegations.

Wethington said the main problem is that Robert Smith, one of the town's three full-time officers, has a history of being untruthful, using questionable force and generating complaints about his harsh demeanor. And Durant's police chief, he says, is aware of the problems but hired Smith anyway last year even though some of them have to be disclosed to criminal defendants.

"I'm not saying they can't do their jobs. I'm just saying that I'm not going to vouch for their integrity," Wethington said in an interview at the sheriff's office in the county seat of Tipton, population 3,200, which is 150 miles (241 kilometers) east of Des Moines. "When you allow somebody to bring a suspect to your jail, you are saying 'I believe this officer is credible and that there is probable cause this happened.' That's not the case here."

Robert Smith retired from the Iowa State Patrol last year after a 30-year career and then was hired by Durant, where his wife previously served as mayor and one of her supporters is the police chief. Dawn and Robert Smith said that he left the patrol in good standing; a patrol spokesman had no immediate comment.

But court records show that the Cedar County prosecutor's office routinely discloses to criminal defendants that Smith's truthfulness as a witness may be called into question by issues that surfaced during his job as a trooper. Such disclosures are referred to as Giglio notices because they are required under a Supreme Court decision by that name and can be a career-ender for officers subjected to them.

Records detailing Robert Smith's past issues are maintained in a sealed file at the courthouse that defense lawyers and judges have been allowed to review in-person.

Robert Smith declined comment on the contents of the file but said, "My record stands by itself and that's all I have to say." Durant Police Chief Orville Randolph declined comment, citing the advice of the city attorney.

Dawn Smith called the sheriff's move an attempt to get back at her after the two elected officials have clashed on other issues. She said Wethington "chose to target me, my family, my friends and my community" after she looked into his admitted unprofessional behavior at a May 1 meeting of the county's 911 board, which he chairs.

Wethington acknowledged that he used foul language and was "downright mean" to vendors of the county's radio system because he was outraged their equipment isn't working and he demanded answers. However, he says Dawn Smith has made an issue of the meeting only to try to discredit him after she caught wind of his plan. He said their feud "makes it easy" to speak out against Durant officers but that's not why he's doing it.

Randolph, the Durant chief, said his department is continuing business as usual amid the situation. But it is having a real-world impact.

A 43-year-old woman was charged with operating while intoxicated last month after she was pulled over for speeding 24 miles per hour over the limit in Durant and had a blood alcohol level over the limit. A criminal complaint says she was released with a date to appear in court rather than jailed because the "Cedar County Sheriff refused to take defendant."

Calling the situation unfortunate, the chief judge of the judicial district has ordered that people who are arrested in the Cedar County part of Durant can be taken to the Scott County jail in Davenport. If that jail is full, they are to be taken to the Muscatine County jail. Durant, despite its small population, stretches into all three counties.

After they make court appearances, the suspects can then be ordered sent back to the Cedar County jail in Tipton pending further proceedings.

Wethington says that he's willing to accept the inmates at that point since their charges have been reviewed by the court — even though it means an 85-mile roundtrip for one of his deputies to pick them up. In addition to the transportation costs, the arrangement could mean additional hearings for the judges and clerks in Scott County.

The sheriff said the response has been "overwhelmingly good" despite those costs, pointing to social media posts cheering him on.

"I even got an 'I Stand With Warren' hashtag," he said with a laugh.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 915942

Reported Deaths: 9606
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1786832038
Ramsey739711046
Dakota67683587
Anoka64112577
Washington40545359
Stearns33631279
St. Louis29591409
Scott25994186
Wright25957217
Olmsted22339130
Sherburne19000127
Carver1670669
Clay12104105
Blue Earth1147970
Rice11451138
Crow Wing11213123
Chisago995379
Kandiyohi9815108
Otter Tail9813127
Benton9033125
Beltrami816997
Goodhue811798
Douglas7875101
Itasca772299
Mower733449
McLeod713084
Winona710258
Isanti700783
Steele685731
Morrison672879
Becker628574
Polk603187
Freeborn561246
Carlton546974
Mille Lacs532479
Lyon528461
Nobles525054
Nicollet522460
Pine515043
Cass501253
Todd492843
Brown470759
Le Sueur459734
Meeker433458
Martin386544
Wabasha375510
Waseca374333
Dodge361112
Hubbard355249
Roseau316231
Fillmore305315
Wadena302940
Redwood281445
Houston272017
Renville268451
Faribault258233
Sibley252317
Pennington252130
Kanabec250136
Cottonwood230132
Aitkin222450
Chippewa220542
Pope207410
Watonwan198020
Yellow Medicine188023
Rock177729
Koochiching176725
Swift173123
Stevens167511
Jackson161016
Clearwater158020
Marshall153522
Murray151811
Pipestone149729
Lake132924
Lac qui Parle123025
Wilkin121116
Mahnomen106014
Norman10509
Grant101510
Big Stone9485
Lincoln8805
Kittson73223
Red Lake71410
Traverse6056
Unassigned545124
Lake of the Woods5265
Cook3071

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 525758

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
Unassigned500
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