By PETER HUSSMANN
The civil trial in the lawsuit brought by the former Mingo city clerk for malicious prosecution at the hands of local law enforcement will not start as previously scheduled next month after a district court judge on Wednesday granted the parties' joint motion to continue the trial.
District Court Judge Randy Hefner directed attorneys for Amy Berkey, the former Mingo city clerk who was charged with first degree theft in late 2008 only to later have the charge dismissed due to lack of evidence, and the remaining defendants who are being accused of conspiring to bring the charges about, Jasper County, the City of Mingo, then Mingo City Attorney Richard Phelps and Jasper County Deputy Sheriff Brady Lewis, to contact the court administrator to obtain a new trial date within seven days.
Berkey was charged in late 2008 with first degree theft and two counts of felonious misconduct in office after a state audit report in April 2008 concluded the City of Mingo's utility deposits were short nearly $14,000 and nearly $33,000 in payments from the city checking account were not properly documented.
Berkey contends that while the audit report did not assign blame for the missing funds and did not conclude that she was responsible for the missing money, the defendants conspired to bring about the charges against her even though they knew they were false.
Jasper County prosecutors turned the case over to the Iowa Attorneys General Office in early 2009. Six months later the charges were dismissed after state prosecutors determined insufficient evidence existed to proceed.
Judge Hefner also has taken under advisement numerous motions filed in the case, including one from Ms. Berkey's attorney to expand the pleadings, and motions by all the defendants to be dismissed from the action.
Two other defendants initially named in the lawsuit, Denny Stevenson, a former detective in the Jasper County Sheriff's Department, and Harley Steenhoek, a Mingo volunteer firefighter who first voiced concerns about potential accounting problems in the city, were previously dismissed from the case.
The trial had originally been set to begin Aug. 28.