A man acquitted of arson and insurance fraud charges pleaded guilty to witness tampering in a Jefferson County court.
On Thursday, Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding says Lucas Anthony McCoy, 39, admitted to harassing a witness named against him in an arson and insurance fraud case, a case that resulted in his acquittal.
Between this past February and April, Lucas made repeated contact with the witness with the intent to intimidate and harass the victim and influence testimony. Those actions include:
- Repeated incidents of trespass at the residence of the victim, including blocking vehicles in the driveway and trespassing in the early morning hours.
- Repeated incidents of trespass at the place of work of the victim.
- Following the victim’s child home from school.
- Following the victim in a vehicle.
- Damaging property at the home of the victim Making false police reports relating to the victim
McCoy was ordered to serve a suspended 180-day sentence of incarceration and to not have any contact with the victim.
In his press release, Moulding notes that the two offenses that McCoy was acquitted of were felonies and would have resulted in a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if he was convicted.
Witness tampering is an aggravated misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Moulding goes on to say the relatively light sentence for witness tampering creates troublesome motivations for criminals facing harsh sentences.
“The Iowa legislature has created a moral hazard where felony criminal defendants have the perverse incentive to tamper, intimidate, and influence witnesses listed against them without fear of substantial consequences. A criminal defendant in such a situation should not be able to make the calculated decision to intimidate a witness into not testifying, comforted by the knowledge that the worst outcome of such intimidation is a misdemeanor offense. This is a loophole which must be addressed by Iowa’s lawmakers. Failure to do so amounts to tacit endorsement of the obstruction of justice. The Iowa legislature must review this flaw in the law and strengthen the penalties for criminally obstructing justice through witness coercion. Obstructing a felony prosecution should not remain a misdemeanor offense.”Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding