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Matt Hall takes a shot as he plays in the 2019 Iowa State Pool Championship at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo on Thursday afternoon.

Ex-Trump campaign boss Manafort sentenced to 47 months

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, much less than what was called for under sentencing guidelines.

Manafort, sitting in a wheelchair as he deals with complications from gout, had no visible reaction as he heard the 47-month sentence. While that was the longest sentence to date to come from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, it could have been much worse for Manafort. Sentencing guidelines called for a 20-year-term, effectively a lifetime sentence for the 69-year-old.

Manafort has been jailed since June, so he will receive credit for the nine months he has already served. He still faces the possibility of additional time from his sentencing in a separate case in the District of Columbia, where he pleaded guilty to charges related to illegal lobbying.

Before Judge T.S. Ellis III imposed the sentence, Manafort told him that “saying I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.” But he offered no explicit apology, something Ellis noted before issuing his sentence.

Manafort steered Donald Trump’s election efforts during crucial months of the 2016 campaign as Russia sought to meddle in the election through hacking of Democratic email accounts. He was among the first Trump associates charged in the Mueller investigation and has been a high-profile defendant.

But the charges against Manafort were unrelated to his work on the campaign or the focus of Mueller’s investigation: whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians.

A jury last year convicted Manafort on eight counts, concluding that he hid from the IRS millions of dollars he earned from his work in Ukraine.

Manafort’s lawyers argued that their client had engaged in what amounted to a routine tax evasion case, and cited numerous past sentences in which defendants had hidden millions from the IRS and served less than a year in prison.

Prosecutors said Manafort’s conduct was egregious, but Ellis ultimately agreed more with defense attorneys. “These guidelines are quite high,” Ellis said.

Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys had requested a particular sentence length in their sentencing memoranda, but prosecutors had urged a “significant” sentence.

Outside court, Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, said his client accepted responsibility for his conduct “and there was absolutely no evidence that Mr. Manafort was involved in any collusion with the government of Russia.”

Prosecutors left the courthouse without making any comment.

Though Manafort hasn’t faced charges related to collusion, he has been seen as one of the most pivotal figures in the Mueller investigation. Prosecutors, for instance, have scrutinized his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate U.S. authorities say is tied to Russian intelligence, and have described a furtive meeting the men had in August 2016 as cutting to the heart of the investigation.

After pleading guilty in the D.C. case, Manafort met with investigators for more than 50 hours as part of a requirement to cooperate with the probe. But prosecutors reiterated at Thursday’s hearing that they believe Manafort was evasive and untruthful in his testimony to a grand jury.

Manafort was wheeled into the courtroom about 3:45 p.m. in a green jumpsuit from the Alexandria jail, where he spent the last several months in solitary confinement. The jet black hair he bore in 2016 when serving as campaign chairman was gone, replaced by a shaggy gray.

Defense lawyers had argued that Manafort would never have been charged if it were not for Mueller’s probe. At the outset of the trial, even Ellis agreed with that assessment, suggesting Manafort was being prosecuted only to pressure him to “sing” against Trump. Prosecutors said the Manafort investigation preceded Mueller’s appointment.

Manafort was convicted of eight felonies related to tax and bank fraud charges for hiding foreign income from his work in Ukraine from the IRS and later inflating his income on bank loan applications. Prosecutors have said the work in Ukraine was on behalf of politicians who were closely aligned with Russia, though Manafort insisted his work helped those politicians distance themselves from Russia and align with the West.

In arguing for a significant sentence, prosecutor Greg Andres said Manafort still hasn’t accepted responsibility for his misconduct.

“His sentencing positions are replete with blaming others,” Andres said. He also said Manafort still has not provided a full account of his finances for purposes of restitution, a particularly egregious omission given that his crime involved hiding more than $55 million in overseas bank accounts to evade paying more than $6 million in federal income taxes.

The lack of certainty about Manafort’s finances complicated the judge’s efforts to impose restitution, but Ellis ultimately ordered that Manafort could be required to pay back up to $24 million.

In the D.C. case, Manafort faces up to five years in prison on each of two counts to which he pleaded guilty. The judge will have the option to impose any sentence there concurrent or consecutive to the sentence imposed by Ellis.

Iowa reports dismal HPV-vaccination rates as related cancer incidents rise

Dr. George Weiner

DES MOINES — The human papillomavirus is responsible for a broad swath of cancer diagnoses annually, but Iowans have been slow to adopt vaccination recommendations — sitting well below a national goal of vaccinating 80 percent of 13- to- 15-year-olds by 2020.

Meanwhile, hard-to-treat cancers related to HPV — including cervix and oropharynx cancers — are on the rise, according to a 2019 Cancer in Iowa report issued this week by the University of Iowa-based State Health Registry of Iowa.

In the United States, HPV causes nearly 34,000 cases of cancer annually, according to the report. Iowa tracked about 450 cases of HPV-related cancer in men and women combined in 2015, the most recent data available, according to Mary Charlton, assistant professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health.

HPV-related cancers are more common in women than men, although diagnoses are increasing in men, driven largely by oropharyngeal cancers — associated with the middle throat, like at the base of the tongue, in the tonsils or on the surface of the soft palate.

HPV is a group of viruses that includes more than 150 different high- and low-risk types, with high-risk types capable of causing cancer and inflammatory lesions. The new Cancer in Iowa report notes most sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives, although most will never know.

Research in 2006 produced a vaccine capable of preventing 90 percent of HPV-related cancers every year, but its uptake has been slow nationally and in Iowa, according to the report.

Although HPV vaccination when given before initial exposure to the virus provides nearly 100 percent protection from nine of the virus’ variants — making it “highly effective” in preventing the types of HPV that can cause cancer — just 38 percent of Iowa adolescents ages 13 to 15 had the full recommended vaccine series in 2017, according to the new report.

That is below the U.S. rate of 49 percent and well below a national and state goal of getting 80 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds fully vaccinated by 2020.

Black Hawk County was close to the national average at 48 percent.

“It’s terribly inadequate,” George Weiner, professor and director of the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, told reporters after the report’s release Tuesday. “We have a vaccine here that can prevent future cancers, and only 38 percent of people are getting it.”

The HPV vaccination rate in Iowa is half the 76 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds who received the Tdap vaccine, protecting against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. In 2017, according to the report, more than half of Iowa’s counties reported HPV vaccination rates below the state’s already dismal average — including Johnson County, which reported a 35 percent vaccination rate despite being home to the University of Iowa and its hospitals and clinics.

Davis County in southern Iowa reported the lowest HPV vaccination rate at 16 percent, while Adair County southwest of Des Moines reported the highest at 64 percent. In addition to the 51 Iowa counties below the state average, 39 were either at or above the 38 percent average but still below 50 — meaning just nine counties reported more than half their targeted adolescents had received the vaccination, according to the report.

Part of the lag relates to stigma associated with the preventive measure, which initially was discussed as a vaccine for sexually transmitted diseases, according to Weiner.

“That’s some of the stigma that has come along — that by vaccinating young children, you’re assuming that they will be sexually active at a certain age,” he said. “But that’s not the reason at all. It’s a cancer prevention vaccine.”

In addition to researching prevention, detection and treatment of HPV-related cancers, Weiner said public health officials are investigating methods to improve public awareness and understanding. He and other state cancer experts said no one is discussing mandating the HPV vaccination to attend school — as is the case for other vaccines.

“But it would definitely save lives if it were required for school,” said Nathan Boonstra, a pediatrician at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines

The most common type of cancer among women in Iowa continues to be breast cancer — with 2,500 new cases expected this year, according to the 2019 report. For men in Iowa, the most common is prostate cancer — with 2,050 new cases expected this year.

The deadliest type of cancer for women and men in Iowa is lung cancer, with 730 deaths anticipated for women and 900 projected for men in 2019.

National studies show HPV is responsible for more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers, 75 percent of vaginal cancers, 70 percent of vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers and 60 percent of penile cancers.

Although cervical cancer has seen a sharp decline since the 1970s, it’s edged back up in recent years. And oropharyngeal cancer in men steadily has become more common, as have other male- and female HPV-related cancers.

Although Iowa’s total number of cancer cases remains relatively unchanged from year to year, Weiner said improvement in HPV vaccination rates will help shift that hard-to-move needle.

“They will drop dramatically,” he said of Iowa’s cancer rates.

Reinstating death penalty considered by Iowa lawmakers

DES MOINES — After an emotional debate near the end of a long day in the Iowa Capitol, state lawmakers narrowly voted to approve the death penalty as a sentencing option in extreme cases.

The proposal was one of the last to be considered Thursday before a key legislative deadline.

Bills must clear at least one committee this week to stay alive on their own this session. The death penalty debate came against that deadline.

The bill would reinstate the death penalty — banned in Iowa in 1965 — as a sentencing option when the victim is sexually assaulted, kidnapped and murdered.

Lawmakers made impassioned arguments.

Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, a retired deputy sheriff, spoke about criminals he helped put in jail and the victims of their horrific crimes. He recalled his work as a Johnson County investigator the 2005 kidnapping, rape and murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage in Linn County, and seeing Gage’s killer in prison.

Kinney voted against the bill.

“(Gage’s killer) is living a deplorable life (in prison). That is the one thing for me, that if we kill him (via the death penalty), that would be a gift to him. I want him to sit in there and rot for the rest of his life thinking of what he did to that young girl who I had to carry out of his trailer in a body bag,” Kinney said.

Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, voted in favor of the proposal, which he described as a limited, although he supports broader use of the death penalty.

Schultz said criminals already face life in prison when convicted of kidnapping and rape — the death penalty would add another level of punishment when the crime also includes murder.

“It’s the ultimate penalty for the ultimate act,” Schultz said. “I believe that the ultimate penalty can be justified morally, financially and statistically. I’m ready to have that debate.”

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-7. All Democrats opposed the bill, as did two Republicans: Amy Sinclair of Allerton and Zach Nunn of Altoona.

Because it beat this week’s “funnel” deadline, the bill is eligible for further consideration.

Bills that did not pass out of committee Thursday are technically dead for the session, although they can be amended to bills that survived.

Tax and spending bills are not subject to the deadline.

Governor pleased

Gov. Kim Reynolds said she is pleased some of her priorities — Future Ready Iowa, Empower Rural Iowa, establishing a children’s mental health care system and restoring felon voting rights — passed the deadline with “strong bipartisan support.”

“It just reinforces our ability to set aside differences and work together to move our state forward,” Reynolds said in a statement.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, also praised the progress made during the first eight weeks of what is scheduled to be a 110-day session.

“The things we talked about at the start of the session are still moving forward, so I’m pleased,” Umpeyer said.

House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, wasn’t as sanguine. He said Democrats’ priorities are school funding and fixing Iowa’s health care system.

The $90 million in new school funding for K-12 schools, about $3.3 billion total for the 2019-2020 school year, is not enough, he said. Small schools and rural schools will continue to face financial challenges.

There has been no discussion of a bill sponsored by all 46 House Democrats to restore accountability in Medicaid for people in long-term care, Prichard said.

“That’s been disappointing. We’ve come with an idea and wanted to have that discussion,” he said.

The next funnel deadline is April 5, when bills passed by one chamber must win approval from a committee in the other chamber.

Election changes

Another bill still alive is a sweeping elections bill introduced Wednesday. Among myriad other provisions, the bill would close the polls for statewide elections at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., ban state-owned buildings — including public universities — from serving as early voting satellite locations, require all absentee ballots be received by the local auditor before Election Day, and require cross-checking of signatures on absentee ballots.

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said the goal of the bill is to provide uniformity and transparency. Democrats see it differently: They say the bill’s real aim is to make it harder for young voters and absentee ballot users.

“The bill before us has been touted as an election reform bill but let me assure you it is not, unless you believe that election reform is about restricting access of the ballot to certain voters in the state,” said Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

The bill cleared the Senate State Government Committee on a party-line vote with all Republicans supporting.

Industrial hemp

A bill to make industrial hemp a crop option for farmers also was approved by the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday.

“This definitely is a work in progress,” Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, said as the committee voted 21-1 to send it the full House.

Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, was the lone “no” vote despite his support for hemp as a crop option for farmers. He wants more protections for farmers.

Medical marijuana

Klein also managed a bill to let nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, as well as doctors, recommend medical marijuana for patients. It also would increase the potency of legal cannabis products. There is a push to increase the limits on the chemical THC in cannabis products. Klein hopes to reach a compromise will get broad support.

Marsy’s Law

Adding additional protections for crime victims to the state constitution failed to pass out of a committee.

The Senate’s Judiciary Committee had a so-called Marsy’s Law bill on its agenda Thursday, but pulled it, indicating there were not enough votes to advance it.

Proponents of the provisions, enacted in six states, describe it as a victim’s bill of rights. Opponents say state law already provides sufficient legal protections for victims, and the bill could infringe on the accused.

Solar fee

A proposal to allow utility companies to charge a “grid equity fee” on solar installations for small businesses, farmers and other individuals passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, said the fee is fair since solar installations use infrastructure utilities must maintain, like power poles and lines.

Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, called the proposal a cash grab by utility companies.

The bill passed the Commerce Committee with Democrats voting against it. It is similar to a bill passed out of a House committee.

Employee misconduct

The Commerce Committee also advanced legislation to more clearly define what constitutes misconduct under a law regarding state employees seeking unemployment benefits.

Currently, the type of actions that would constitute misconduct are written only in rule, not state law.

Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said the goal is to provide clarity for both employers and employees. But Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said the bill is unnecessary because decades of case law already define misconduct.

The bill advanced on a party-line vote.

Waterloo quickly adopts budget, tax increase

WATERLOO — The city will use a small property tax increase this year to help keep a fire station open and hire a new vehicle mechanic.

Waterloo City Council members avoided protracted debates and bickering that marred past budget hearings before voting 5-2 Thursday to adopt a tax rate and spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1.

“We wanted to have a more professional experience this time,” said Councilman Bruce Jacobs, who joined Ray Feuss, Margaret Klein, Jerome Amos Jr. and Sharon Juon in voting for the budget.

“Since I’ve been on the council, this is the budget that’s included the most input from all the council members combined,” Jacobs said. “I think council members did a very nice job of compromising and working this out to make it reasonable.

“We cover our bases very well with a very slight (tax) increase, which I think people are willing to take on.”

Councilmen Steve Schmitt voted against the budget because it was balanced by spending down $350,000 in general fund cash reserves. He also suggested his input was not considered.

“There was no point in talking tonight because that cake was baked last week,” Schmitt said. “The mayor has had meetings with certain council members. It was a done deal weeks ago.”

Councilman Pat Morrissey also voted against the budget after his counter proposal failed to get any support.

Morrissey wanted to boost the use of reserves to $500,000, raise the gas and electric franchise fee and cut $110,500 from the police budget free up revenue for another firefighter, two mechanics and additional employees in the Center for the Arts, Human Rights Commission and Management Information Systems departments.

His plan also added $50,000 for library materials, $71,000 more for MET Transit bus support and $30,000 for fireworks enforcement overtime.

“It is the lowest levy rate increase of all the proposals you have in front of you,” Morrissey said. “It increases all those things that I’ve talked about that have been cut over the years and in so doing provides better services that the residents of Waterloo deserve.”

Other council members had previously voiced reluctance to boost the franchise fee or tap the general fund reserves for more revenue.

The approved budget boosts overall property tax collection by $1.67 million, or 4.1 percent, in the coming year based on increased property values and a bump in the property tax rate from $17.46 to $17.55 per $1,000 of value.

The new rate generates a 2.87 percent increase in the city’s share of a residential tax bill, a 0.5 percent increase in industrial and commercial tax bills, and a 4.3 percent cut in multi-residential building taxes.

Those differences between classes are set by rollbacks adopted by the state and can’t be adjusted by the City Council.

The owner of a $100,000 home in Waterloo will see the city’s share of their tax bill grow from $971 to $999 next year. The city collects about 43 percent of the overall tax bill, with the schools and county getting the rest.

On the expense side, the budget includes additional overtime to keep Fire Station No. 6 open full time and adds a mechanic to help overcome a backlog of maintenance that has left some city vehicles and equipment idled.

The budget adds $80,000 in new funding to help restructure the legal department following the retirement of City Attorney Dave Zellhoefer.

Chief Financial Officer Michelle Weidner said the budget includes about $1.4 million in additional personnel costs. But she said actual wage increases and health insurance costs won’t be settled until the city finishes negotiating contracts with its labor unions.