Minnesota filmmaker sentence appeal rejectedDES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Minnesota filmmaker sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in the Iowa Film Office scandal was denied an appeal of her sentence Wednesday by the Iowa Court of Appeals.
By: DAVID PITT,Associated Press, Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Minnesota filmmaker sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in the Iowa Film Office scandal was denied an appeal of her sentence Wednesday by the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Wendy Weiner Runge claims the district court judge improperly considered comments she made in an Internet blog during her trial that were critical of prosecutors and the judge. She also alleges the charges were the result of anti-Semitism.
Runge's appeal says Judge Douglas Staskal violated her rights to free speech when he considered the blog comments. In some of the posts, Runge accused prosecutors of engaging in political games and criticized Staskal saying her lawyer found the judge unprofessional.
The blog posts were given to Staskal, and he referred to them at Runge's sentencing hearing.
He said the posts suggest "you have not taken responsibility for what you did, and what you did was a felony."
Staskal called Runge "arrogant and defiant" and sentenced her to 10 years in prison.
Runge, 47, said in her appeal brief that a guilty plea inherently accepts responsibility and demonstrates remorse. The appeals court, however, found that Staskal properly considered Runge's blog statements and did not violate her free-speech rights.
The justices said the judge concluded prison time would send a message that Runge's behavior won't be tolerated.
"The judge chose to sentence her on these clearly articulated reasons and grounds, which we find are not clearly untenable or unreasonable," the appeals court said.
Prosecutors accused Runge, a co-owner of Minneapolis-based Polynation Pictures, of inflating expenses on applications for film tax credits offered by the state. The company received $1.8 million in incentives for a film.
Runge pleaded guilty to fraudulent practices, and several other charges were dropped.
Two of her partners pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation.
Runge's attorney, Matt Whitaker of Des Moines, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.