Amanda Lassance is back at work.
To the disbelief of many Jackson County citizens, that was the front-page headline in last Saturday’s Maquoketa Sentinel-Press, a staggering gut punch to those following the story who held out hope our community’s justice system would in any way live up to its name.
The facts in this case are not disputed, making Lassance’s return to her taxpayer-funded job as assistant county attorney – who routinely tries drunk driving cases – all the more ironic, disrespectful and insulting.
It’s now well known throughout the community that according to public records Lassance was drinking and driving in the wee hours of April 6, and even though a Clinton County deputy’s report said she was slurring her speech and had beer cans scattered around her car, he nor the other law enforcement officers who responded to the call subjected her to a sobriety test. Instead, at least two of them conspired to provide her a ride to her office at the Jackson County Courthouse – the same office where she works to prosecute others who are, at least sometimes, guilty of less egregious behavior than her own. Later that morning, presumably after the booze had worn off, Steve Schroeder, Jackson County’s chief deputy, gave Lassance a ride back to her car.
Perhaps most galling of all is that Lassance told police, according to a deputy’s report, that she had been drinking in her car after it had come to a stop, which is a well-worn trick drunk drivers regularly employ to make prosecution more difficult.
Lassance did plead guilty to an open container violation, the equivalent of a traffic ticket, but did not face the kind of charges she would likely have pursued if she were the prosecutor and the suspect had been someone else.
The way police handled the investigation at the scene showed obvious favoritism — and everyone knows it — but it is Lassance’s return to work, without so much as an apology, that takes this story from bad to abysmal.
An extreme perversion of justice it is, but regardless of that, explanations from those in charge — those who have not only allowed this to happen but in many ways participated in what makes the situation so distasteful — are still morally imperative for the community to hear.
The county leaders who have been prominently involved — Jackson County Sheriff Russ Kettmann, Schroeder, Jackson County Attorney Sara Davenport, and of course, Lassance — should understand by now this is not an insignificant issue that will be quickly forgotten.
Even though Kettmann is planning to retire, he should still take his responsibilities seriously. He should have already publicly acknowledged that his deputies should not have helped arrange special treatment for Lassance. That one is a no-brainer. He also should go to the trouble of understanding the policies of his own department, policies that dictate how body cameras should be used, and make sure his deputies are well trained on how to use them, and that their use is not optional. He should show the public he is willing to take responsibility for his department’s performance, good or bad. He should also go to the trouble of answering questions with correct information, which, with this story, has not consistently happened.
Schroeder — who is second in command in the sheriff’s office, Kettmann’s brother-in-law, and a candidate for sheriff in the next election — should answer the same questions. He should also publicly explain why he used his police vehicle to give Lassance a ride back to her car in Clinton County while on duty. Schroeder has said he doesn’t think the sheriff’s office has done anything wrong, but our readers, in droves, disagree.
Davenport, Lassance’s supervisor, should explain how, in good conscience, she can keep Lassance employed. The people of Jackson County now have an assistant prosecutor who circumnavigated the same justice system she is payed and entrusted to uphold, and a county attorney who, apparently, doesn’t choose to understand why that’s a problem.
Lastly, there is Lassance. There may not be anything for her to say. A resignation is probably the only thing that could make things right.
This column was written by Maquoketa Sentinel-Press Publisher Trevis Mayfield.