Iowa lawmaker looks add new legislation to add truth in sentencing

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Truth in sentencing is what many families seek when going through the justice system, but feel like it’s elusive. That’s why one lawmaker is working on legislation to ensure criminals serve the prison time they receive.

“I was enraged, guilty,” said Dee Detrbarn, the Half-Brother of John Cupples.

Cupples was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a child under the age of 12 in 2017.

“He deserved much more,” said Kelsey Dettbarn.

Less than a year later, Cupples had his first parole hearing. The parole board denied him, but he’s still scheduled to be released in 2026, serving about half his sentence.

“You look at the parole system, and they say they are going to make this person available for release earlier; they aren’t just making that up or doing what they want, they are actually playing by the rules,” said Senator Charlie McClintock. "

Iowa Senator McClintock and Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said this happens all too often.

“It undermines the system,” said Maybanks.

Right now, Iowa criminals can get their sentences shortened for following the rules in prison. Even for the more serious crimes, where state law requires a “mandatory minimum” (crimes like forcible felonies with a dangerous weapon or habitual offenders). Senator McClintock said that undermines the point of mandatory minimum sentences.

“We are not talking about first-time offenders or something like a misdemeanors drug user, or something like that, or shoplifters, we are talking about habitual offenders many times with either weapon, dangerous offenders that we’re going after with this code,” said Senator McClintock.

He’s planning to submit legislation to prevent mandatory minimum sentences from being reduced. That bill would not apply to Cupples since that case didn’t involve mandatory minimums. It is something that would have helped Tabitha Brocks. Nathan Brocks, Tabitha’s husband, was only out of prison a few days when he showed up at Tabitha’s home, and an hours-long fight for her life ensued.

“He came running out, he jumped right over my freaking coach, literally flew over the damn couch into the hallway,” said Tabitha. “He grabbed my hair, banged my face off the freaking wall, and dragged it. There was so much blood.”

Brocks received a 40-year prison sentence with a 20-year minimum sentence, but he’s expected to get out in 2028 after only serving 9 years if he continues to follow the rules in prison. Maybanks prosecuted this case. He said it was what inspired him to reach out to McClintock about making the change to the legislation.

“When a mandatory sentence is put out, it is actually served with the time that’s given to them,” said McClintock.