Assistant Jackson County Attorney Amanda Lassance has returned to work and is prosecuting drunk driving cases after having been involved in an alcohol-related incident during which police did not give her a sobriety test.

Lassance returned to her job part-time June 18 after being on medical leave – about one week before the state Ombudsman’s Office launched an investigation into how two local sheriff’s departments handled the April 6 incident in which she was in the driver’s seat of a car parked on the side of the road with beer cans strewn about.   

She pleaded guilty in Clinton County Court to having been the driver of the car and having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

Lassance had been on medical leave following an unrelated April 12 car crash.

Her supervisor, Jackson County Attorney Sara Davenport, said Lassance is prosecuting the same types of cases she was before the accident.

In May, Davenport said Lassance would face disciplinary action and have conditions placed on her employment because of the April 6 incident, but she would not say what those actions or conditions would be.

Davenport said Lassance is not prosecuting a full case load but is “handling magistrate court” and other duties on a part-time basis Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

On June 25, the Iowa Office of Ombudsman confirmed it had launched an investigation into how the Jackson and Clinton county sheriff’s departments conducted their work after finding Lassance parked on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 61.

Police did not subject Lassance to a sobriety test at the scene of the early morning call on April 6 even though a Clinton County deputy wrote in his report that she had bloodshot eyes, was slurring her words, and admitted to having been drinking. The same deputy transported Lassance to her office at the Jackson County Courthouse where she spent the rest of the night.

Officials in the Ombudsman’s office declined to elaborate on the specifics of the investigation, but said questions raised by Maquoketa Sentinel-Press news stories drew the agency’s attention and sparked the probe.

During the past 13 weeks, the Sentinel-Press filed multiple information requests under Iowa’s public records laws and detailed multiple inconsistent and contradictory statements by public officials who handled the case.

The background

The incident occurred just south of the Jackson County line near Welton in Clinton County. Deputies from both sheriff’s departments, as well as police officers from Maquoketa and Bellevue, responded to a 911 call from Lassance’s boyfriend, Nick Shannon, who reported he and Lassance had been in a moving vehicle, that they had been drinking, and that she had assaulted him.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf released the report and dashcam video of Clinton County Deputy Andrew Petersen after the Sentinel-Press had already obtained the report from an unnamed source and published the information. In his report, Petersen wrote he changed his mind about giving Lassance a sobriety test when she held up an open beer can and said she had been drinking in the stopped car.

If the Ombudsman’s office, which has subpoena powers, determines that a public official has acted in a manner warranting criminal or disciplinary proceedings, it can refer the matter to the appropriate authorities. If the Ombudsman decides to publish a report of its findings, conclusions, and recommendations, and the report is critical of a specific agency, that agency is given an opportunity to attach an unedited response to the report.

It is too early to tell how long the investigation will take, Ombudsman officials said.