Thursday, May 04, 2006

Maybanks plays Pierce card

Maybanks plays Pierce card

Developing in the county attorney race:

The controversial 2002 prosecution of former University of Iowa basketball star Pierre Pierce has surfaced in this year’s Johnson County attorney race, with candidate Nick Maybanks calling for a review of what he called its ‘‘extremely unusual’’ handling.

Maybanks, a Linn County prosecutor seeking the Democratic nomination for the post held by J. Patrick White the last 24 years, said Pierce should not have been allowed to plead his third degree sex abuse charge down to a lesser assault charge...

The 2002 Pierce case is one of a number of issues Maybanks said he hoped would distinguish him from the six-term White and Maybanks’ competitor, Assistant Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness. Maybanks and Lyness are seeking the Democratic Party nomination in the June 6 primary. White has endorsed Lyness...

A little bit on the moot side with Pierce behind bars... but would the second incident have happened if the first had been handled differently?

And Lyness, still working for White, has to choose her words carefully; I think they teach that at law school.

Lyness said an investigation into how White handled the 2002 case is not necessary. ‘‘I feel pretty confident in that Pat is not somebody who takes things lightly. He’s not somebody who makes snap judgments,’’ she said.

Lyness said White’s decision to allow Pierce to plea to a lesser charge in 2002 caused disagreement in the County Attorney’s Office, with some in the office wondering why Pierce got the deal.

Verrrry interesting. How does one interpret that statement? It's the classic Hubert Humphrey dilemma: How do you address the cross-tensions of advocating for change while still working in a lame duck administration?

More to the immediate point: this is the kind of headline-grabber that folks who aren't usually tuned into a primary a month out will pick up on. The Pierce case is at once concrete and symbolic: a specific, high profile case and a handle for folks for whom the issue in the race is the outgoing incumbent.

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