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GARY WARD, Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist - U.S. Navy 

Kevin Reuter, a 2004 North Central High School graduate and Manly native, is helping train the Navy's best pilots at TOPGUN. 

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley and Investigator Jason Hugi, top right, and other police officers were present during the pep rally for the Mason City girls basketball team's trip to state at the high school on Monday.

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Mason City administrators, police refuse to provide information on school weapon threat

MASON CITY | The investigation into a safety threat at Mason City High School last week is ongoing, officials said Monday, but they refused to provide a number of additional details. 

A student has been referred to Juvenile Court Services for threatening to bring a weapon to school to use against others Friday. 

The student's name, age and criminal charge has not been released. Court records for people under the age of 18 are confidential in Iowa, unless a teen is charged in adult court or charged with a forcible felony, such as murder.

Details surrounding the incident, which was first publicly acknowledged by Mason City Schools and Mason City Police Department about 4 p.m. Saturday, are scarce.

A student told school officials about the threat sometime during the last period of the school day Friday, Superintendent Dave Versteeg said via email Monday. 

“I don’t have a specific time,” Versteeg said.  

Versteeg in an email deferred to Police Chief Jeff Brinkley, saying “I think that is a question Chief (Jeff) Brinkley should answer” about the following questions:

• What was the nature of the threat?

• Was a type of weapon specified? If so, what kind?

• Was the weapon in question ever shown to other students?

• Was the student a high school student or alternative school student?

• Did the threat target specific students, staff, a building or the district as a whole?

“Administration investigated the threat and felt it was serious enough to inform the school resource officer," Versteeg said. "The school resource officer was informed about 4 p.m. on Friday.”

Versteeg said the school district decided to wait until Saturday to release information on the threat.

“With no school until Monday, we waited for MCPD to report on its investigation to us,” he said.

Brinkley agreed with the timing.

“Once we felt we had all of the information and were able to make a competent public statement about it, we did so,” Brinkley said via email Monday, noting the investigation remains active. “The timing of that process worked out that it was Saturday.”

Citing provisions of state law that Brinkley said prevents the police department from "releasing information related to juvenile referrals and officer case reports," he declined to answer the following questions: 

• What was the nature of the threat?

• Was a type of weapon specified? If so, what kind?

• Was the weapon in question ever shown to other students?

• Did the threat target specific students, staff, a building or the district as a whole?

• Did the department execute a search warrant in relation to this threat?

• What did the warrant turn up?

• How serious were the charges against the student?

• What specifically is the charge?

It is unclear whether the student who has been referred to juvenile court is still enrolled, or if he or she has been suspended or expelled. 

“I can’t comment on a student disciplinary matter,” Versteeg said.

Riceville Schools in Howard County canceled classes Thursday due to a shooting threat. A female is accused of messaging an person online asking him to "shoot up Riceville School," according to law enforcement. Neither party has been identified, and the FBI is investigating the incident.

“The recent events in Florida have not changed the way we handle incidents at schools,” Brinkley said. “We enjoy a good working relationship with our local schools and school administrations.”

Versteeg agreed that the Florida school shooting has not affected the way the district handles this type of issue.

When asked how the handling of this incident differed from the written threat at John Adams Middle School in the fall, Versteeg noted that every situation is different and the circumstances of each incident will determine how it is handled.

“Each incident is evaluated based on the specific circumstances that are known to us as we begin the investigation,” Brinkley said. “There is not a boilerplate approach to these incidents where one size fits all.”

Versteeg said that acts or threats of violence will usually be turned over to police for investigation.

“It depends on the situation, but generally any acts of violence against students and staff will be turned over to the police for a final determination as to its seriousness,” Versteeg said.

Police investigated a social media post they say threatened a pep rally at the high school Monday afternoon. 

Officers were dispatched to Mason City High School about 12:30 p.m. for a "social media threat of violence that was to occur at an afternoon pep rally," the department said in a news release Monday evening.

The department said it met with school officials to "help make decisions about the balance of the school day," according to the news release.

"We supported the MCCSD decision to have the pep rally, based on the information known to us at the time," police wrote in the release. District officials said it was not connected to Friday's weapon threat. 

Uniformed and plainclothes officers were present during the remainder of the school day, as well as the rally.

The social media post is being investigated, according to police. No other details are being released at this time, but police say they will provide more information as the investigation continues.

Anyone with information about either incident at Mason City High School is asked to contact Mason City Police Criminal Investigation Division Lt. Rich Jensen at 641-421-3636.

Worth County Supervisors approve CAFO, DNR to assess 5,000-hog confinement

NORTHWOOD | The Worth County Supervisors, following a site visit and a workshop at one of its prior meetings, confirmed a passing score Monday for a 5,000-hog confinement site southwest of Silver Lake.

That decision followed a public hearing that was more than an hour long, where several Worth County residents — including many neighbors within a few miles of the site — stated they did not want the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Worth County.

Supervisors Merlin Bartz and Mark Smeby voted to confirm the proposed score of 450. Chairman Ken Abrams abstained. A passing score, according to the master matrix, is 440.

In response to numerous Worth County residents who opposed the proposal, Bartz urged them to reach out to their state legislators, in order to get the master matrix changed.

"We've been on site, we've had the workshop, and had other state requirements," Bartz said following the meeting. "A lot of folks have been advocating for the matrix to be changed, but the data is showing the passing score, and we have to follow that."

During the public hearing, several neighbors and others strongly voiced their opposition to the proposal. That included Lucas Kreuscher, who lives half-mile west of the proposed site.

Both Lucas and his wife, Devan, noted the negative environmental effects the CAFO could pose, and how more of these operations may deter younger families from moving to rural counties like Worth.

Lucas Kreuscher said he didn't know about the proposal until earlier this week, when he read about it in the Globe Gazette.

"I just keep going back to, our local officials have constantly said they're concerned about the lack of young people in their communities," Lucas told the Globe Gazette. "My question is, how are these (operations) going to bring young families to Iowa?"

Dennis Kreuscher, Lucas' father, emphasized that message in his speech to supervisors, while holding up pictures of families who would be impacted near the proposed site. 

He said that although he had experience raising hogs, the CAFO near Silver Lake was not an appropriate way to do it.

"Common sense tells me this is the wrong plan, and the wrong time, and the wrong place," Dennis said. 

Steve Bohnel / STEVE BOHNEL, The Globe Gazette  

Edith Haenel, one of the organizers of Iowa Citizens for Responsible Agriculture, speaks during a public hearing Monday in Northwood for a proposed CAFO near Silver Lake.

Not everyone who spoke at the hearing opposed the plan. That included multiple family members of Eric Christianson and Michael Johnson, two of the key players in the proposal.

Johnson, of Joice, said he is mainly interested in fully running the operation one day, but needs capital from Christianson to start running it.

Both Johnson's father and brother supported Michael's proposal, saying they would like to see him succeed as a young farmer. But several who opposed the CAFO argued the Johnsons and Christiansons would not be impacted as much as the immediate neighbors nearby.

Christianson, of Lake Mills, told the Globe Gazette after the meeting that he did not directly meet with neighbors before moving forward with the proposal.

"We did everything we could to choose a site that goes above and beyond the matrix," he argued.

Christianson declined to answer how he would ensure neighbors will be impacted as little as possible if the two-building, 5,000-hog confinement complex is built.

Now, the proposal from Worth County moves to the DNR, which will have 30 days to decide whether to issue a construction permit. 

Edith Haenel, who helps lead Iowa Citizens for Responsible Agriculture — a local group that opposes CAFOs — understands that supervisors have to follow the state master matrix's guidelines when it comes to these proposals.

She believes, however, that Worth County supervisors and others could do more to help change the matrix.

"It is at the state level, but they have influence as elected officials," Haenel said.

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Woman jailed after outburst at sentencing for Alden grandpa accused of sexually assaulting granddaughter

ELDORA | A woman who attended Dean Hilpipre’s sentencing Friday was jailed for targeting the judge with profanity-laced outbursts during the hearing. 

Audra Virginia Ann Morgan, 35, was held for contempt of court Friday following an outburst directed toward Judge James McGlynn. Court documents don't list her address, but a social media profile lists her current city as Alden. 

Morgan attend the sentencing for Hilpipre, 61, who was accused of sexually assaulting his then-6-year-old granddaughter. A plea deal amended two counts of second-degree sexual abuse to a lesser charge, lascivious acts with a child. 

Following three victim impact statements, McGlynn described how it was not within his power to throw away the deal -- a guilty plea to a lesser charge in exchange for probation and a suspended prison sentence. 

As he was speaking, Morgan began loudly criticizing him and was quickly escorted out of the courtroom.

"You’re a f---ing, sick a-- judge,” she told McGlynn, who replied she would be held in contempt of court. As she was led out by a Hardin County deputy, she added, "Go ahead, throw me in jail."

She was booked into the Hardin County Jail Friday. Contempt of court carries a seven-day jail sentence. 

Contempt sentence

Court documents noted she "engaged in contemptuous and insolent behavior" during the hearing, creating a "willful disturbance calculated to interrupt the due course of the sentencing proceedings."

“However, at any time on or after February 26, 2018, the Court will entertain a sincere written apology from Audra Morgan and will consider suspending the balance of the contempt sentence,” court documents said.

A letter from Morgan, dated Feb. 25, was filed with the court Monday. In the letter, Morgan apologizes for her behavior. 

“I want to apologize to each and everyone present that had to endure my language and disrespectful outbursts,” Morgan wrote. “I’ve worked so hard these last five years to change the person I was and have done pretty well until the sentencing hearing.”

Morgan noted she let her emotions and pain get the best of her.

Audra letter

On Monday, McGlynn accepted her apology, suspended the rest of her contempt sentence and ordered her to pay $200 for room and board costs at the jail. 

Morgan has served more time in jail than the man whose sentencing she protested. 

Hilpipre was sentenced to five years of probation. A 10-year prison sentence was suspended, meaning he could be sent to prison if he violates terms of probation. 

When Hilpipre was initially charged, a warrant for his arrest was issued and served Aug. 16, 2017. He was booked into the Hardin County Jail and posted a $25,000 bond on Aug. 17, after spending one day in jail.

Hilpipre's case gained international attention in January when Hilpipre claimed a $100,000 lottery prize. Lottery officials said a criminal conviction does not disqualify someone from winning a prize.

Contempt suspended

Supreme Court declines to decide fate of 'Dreamers' just yet (copy)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump administration's highly unusual bid to bypass a federal appeals court and get the justices to intervene in the fate of a program that protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

The announcement means the case affecting "Dreamers" will have to work its way through the lower courts before any Supreme Court ruling is possible. The case also could become moot if Congress takes action in the meantime. Right now, however, efforts to address the issue in Congress have hit a stalemate.

The Supreme Court's decision for now to stay out of the case on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, wasn't surprising. It's highly unusual for the Supreme Court to hear a case before a lower appeals court has considered it.

But DACA supporters hailed the decision as a significant — if only temporary — win. President Donald Trump said the case would now be heard by an appeals court and "we'll see what happens from there."

"You know, we tried to get it moved quickly because we'd like to help DACA. I think everybody in this room wants to help with DACA," he said to visiting governors. "But the Supreme Court just ruled that it has to go through the normal channels."

DACA has provided protection from deportation and work permits for about 800,000 young people who came to the U.S. as children and stayed illegally.

In September, Trump argued that President Barack Obama had exceeded his executive powers when he created the program. Trump announced he was ending the program effective March 5 and gave lawmakers until then to come up with a legislative fix.

But in recent weeks, federal judges in San Francisco and New York have made Trump's deadline temporarily moot for people who have sought and been granted renewals; the rulings do not extend to people who are applying for the first time. Judges issued injunctions ordering the administration to keep DACA in place while courts consider legal challenges to Trump's termination. As a result, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services resumed accepting and processing DACA renewals in January, just as it had before Trump's September announcement.

The Trump administration has not tried to block the injunctions that force it to continue operating the program. Although the March 5 date is now moot, Greisa Martinez, policy and advocacy director for United We Dream, said DACA supporters planned to demonstrate in Washington on that day in part to continue to pressure Congress to act.

The Senate two weeks ago blocked a bipartisan bill offering Dreamers potential citizenship and providing $25 billion for Trump to build his proposed border wall with Mexico. A more conservative House proposal that sharply reduces legal immigration and imposes other restrictions has languished short of the GOP votes it would need to pass, leaving its fate in question.

The Supreme Court's announcement Monday that it wouldn't step in to the case now means the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will likely be the first appeals court to weigh in on the topic, the step before the case would return to the Supreme Court.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who joined other states in lawsuits to keep DACA in place, cheered the Supreme Court announcement Monday.

"It's a victory for all Dreamers, certainly a great victory for California," Becerra said during a phone call with reporters. "It's a victory for the rule of law and it's a victory for our economy."

The Ninth Circuit has set no date to hear arguments but has given lawyers dates by which they must file briefs that run through April. Andrew Pincus, an attorney who represents more than 100 businesses that intervened in support of DACA, said June is probably the earliest that the court would rule.

Trump on Monday didn't seem to hold out much hope of winning at the Ninth Circuit, criticizing the liberal-leaning court by saying "nothing's as bad as the Ninth Circuit."

"I mean, it's really sad when every single case filed against us is in the 9th Circuit we lose, we lose, we lose and then we do fine in the Supreme Court," he said.