The arrest of Clarke County Attorney Michelle Rivera for drunk in Iowa in the courtroom asked a judge to dismiss sexual abuse against a man accused of murdering a 13-year-old boy. (Clarke County Jail via AP)
An Iowa man who was set to plead guilty in a sex-abuse case, was freed from prison Monday after a judge cited a drunken county attorney for failing to prosecute him in a timely manner.
The defendant was charged with third-degree sexual abuse and distribution of obscene material to a minor by telephone before district court judge Martha Mertz ruled that the charges would fall, the Des Moines Register reported.
In her ruling, Mertz cited Clarke County Attorney Michelle Rivera, who was arrested Oct. 18 and is drunk in an Osceola court.
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Prosecutors missed the deadline the following day to the defendant his right to a speedy trial or a renewal.
“The county attorney of the unavailability at the last hearing was the finale following an unexplained periods of inactivity and lack of responsiveness which prevent the disposition of this case within one year,” Mertz said, referring to Rivera is not available during a recent hearing in the case.
The defendant was arrested in September 2017, on suspicion of sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy. He admitted to engaging in sexual activity with the teenager, according to a criminal complaint.
He wanted the case dismissed because the prosecutors had not tried within one year of his arraignment. He wound up spending 15 months in prison.
A plea deal was reached, but Rivera was arrested just before the October plea hearing.
A Clark County Sheriff’s deputy noticed Rivera “slurring her words and stumbling on her feet” in the courtroom. She was arrested after refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
They pleaded guilty to the courthouse intoxication and was fined $65.
DEMOCRATIC COUNTY ATTORNEY APOLOGIZES AFTER ALLEGEDLY CAUGHT DRUNK IN THE COURTROOM
Lawyer Marshall Orsini, told the local media that his client’s release was long overdue.
“If the defendant is not on trial (and) is not tried within a year, you have the potential to have that case dismissed, and that is what happened here,” Orsini said.
Rivera, a Democrat, lost her re-election bid for county attorney in November.
She was also last week arrested again on suspicion of driving a vehicle while intoxicated and child endangering. A deputy determined she was intoxicated while dropping off her daughter off at the daycare.
She was expected to make a court appearance Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.