Below are summaries of a select few of Dean Stowers’ more interesting and successful trials in State and Federal Court:
Federal Defense of Ephedrine Pill Company
This remarkable case was tried in Federal Court in Des Moines, Iowa for a period of 7 weeks. Dean Stowers and attorney Raymond Rosenberg defended the principal target in connection with the sale of large amounts of ephedrine through a wholly lawful business to persons using the ephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine. Prior to trial, the government had seized several million dollars and was attempting to forfeit this money and virtually everything the defendants owned under the federal forfeiture laws. The government believed that defendants knew or should have known that the customers were making methamphetamine with their products. The defendants took the position that their conduct fell within what was known as the “ephedrine loophole” whereby the sale of the ephedrine pills in their FDA-approved form was exempted from various regulatory and statutory provisions, meaning that there were no restrictions on their sales of ephedrine. The defense focused upon the efforts the defendants had made to self-regulate, the efforts the methamphetamine manufacturers had undertaken to conceal their intended use of the ephedrine, and the fact that the government’s investigation started with the Drug Enforcement Administration ascertaining the assets owned by the defendants, thus showing the motive of the investigation. The defendants faced essentially a life term if convicted, however, after the extended and lengthy trial, the jury found all defendants not guilty of all 17 counts after less than a day of deliberations. This case has been regarded as the most complex and lengthy federal trial in Iowa history.
Waitress/Dancer with Roommate
This was another Federal methamphetamine case involving large quantities being shipped via UPS from California to various addresses in Des Moines, Iowa. The client was a female who waitressed and danced at a local establishment and took-in as her roommate a man deeply involved in the drug trade. This man was organizing drug shipments to addresses of relatives, friends, and complete strangers. It was claimed that Dean’s client was participating in this activity and was guilty of conspiracy. However, Dean was able to successfully cross examine the key witnesses after a substantial amount of investigative work that uncovered the UPS delivery records and manner of delivery for every one of the drug shipments. In many instances the recipient signatures were forged by the client’s roommate who intercepted the UPS driver at the address, or the packages were sent with no signature required and he would simply retrieve them. This led to testimony of the persons at the addresses to which the packages were delivered to the effect they had no idea they were being used by the roommate and were thankful they did not get wrongfully charged themselves. Dean’s client was found not guilty.
LSD, Tie Dye T-Shirts, Symbols on Paper and Cancer
In the early 1990s there were numerous LSD prosecutions of persons for LSD offenses in Federal Court in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, several of which Dean defended. LSD is typically distributed on perforated paper with symbols printed on the paper. In Des Moines, Dean successfully defended one defendant in a five defendant trial where the issue was whether particular packages contained LSD or tie-dye t-shirts sent from San Francisco. This case boasted some of the all-time most memorable witnesses, including one who fondled the blotter acid exhibit while testifying until he appeared to have ingested some of the LSD through his skin. Needless to say, he proved not very reliable. In this case Dean’s client was able to employ the defense that the witnesses were not credible, there was no LSD in the key package, and the fallback position–that if LSD was in the package, the client’s roommate must have taken it out of the package.
In another LSD case Dean’s client was a Loras college student from Chicago indicted for conspiring to distribute LSD on campus. This case turned on a lot of detailed preparation in Cedar Rapids made possible by the Des Moines flood of 1993. All discovery was dictated, transcribed and carefully organized and analyzed. The evidence showed that the witnesses all related events by reference to the symbols on the LSD blotter paper. During trial, it became apparent that the key witness was claiming Dean’s client had a large amount of LSD on paper with a symbol that nobody else described until a markedly later time period; thus suggesting the witness, who was trying to earn a sentence reduction from the government, was fabricating the event. To defeat the claim that Dean’s client had fled due to the investigation, and to show what he had been doing since attending college in Iowa, Dean offered evidence that his client had been battling Hodgkin’s disease for many months and had his client reveal for the jury a surgical scar down the center line of his body. The client’s mother also gave emotional testimony about what her son was doing since attending Loras college. The defense was that although the client used and purchased LSD, he never joined a conspiracy to distribute LSD. This client was found not guilty of the felony charge after a five day trial.
The Catfishing Dishwasher Defense
Dean represented this Hispanic client on some substantial federal drug charges in Des Moines relating to marijuana and methamphetamine. He was the father of several codefendants who were on trial with him, some of whom resided with their father and mother in their home. The client was a simple, friendly-appearing man of very small stature who worked as a dishwasher at the Embassy Suites Hotel directly across the street from the federal courthouse and also situated on the Des Moines River. Pictures tell a thousand words. In trying to get to know the client, Dean met with his wife who worked as a maid at the same hotel and asked her to bring some pictures of her husband and family. Within the pictures were several photos of the client proudly displaying trophy catfish with notations of their length and weight and the date of catch. Dean also interviewed the client’s supervisor, the Executive Chef for the hotel who thought the world of the client’s work ethic and was familiar with his love of fishing. The Chef literally appeared in his work uniform with Chef hat on to testify. The defense was that a father does not work long hours for minimum wage as a dishwasher, nor would he spend countless hours fishing for trophy catfish to feed his family, if he was involved with his children in the type of major drug trafficking claimed by the government. He was found not guilty after a four day trial.
Massage or Sexual Assault?
This client was charged with sexually assaulting a woman during a massage at her apartment. The woman was a student in the client’s Tai Chi class. Due to his history, he faced a mandatory life term of imprisonment if convicted. The client claimed he was just “going with the flow” and providing a sensual massage to all areas of her body. The massage lasted as much as three hours and the woman did not object to any of the massage while it was occurring, stating, “I thought it was part of the massage.” Dean was able on cross examination to get the woman to admit that although she did not verbalize her agreement to be massaged in her private areas, in her own mind she was consciously allowing it to occur and consenting to it because she thought it was a new type of massage called Tai Chi massage. Dean argued this was a case of “buyer’s remorse” where the woman agreed to the activity at the time, but subsequently regretted doing so and felt she had been taken advantage of. Dean’s client was acquitted by the jury.
One of the key ingredients in manufacturing methamphetamine is anhydrous ammonia, a farm chemical. In 2004, Dean worked representing a client with Chariton, Iowa attorney Bill Shelton. The claim was that the client had aided and abetted a customer of his farm supply business in the manufacture of methamphetamine by supplying him an 800 gallon tank of anhydrous. This case took five days of trial to complete and was vigorously pursued by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Dean successfully established the defense that the key witness, who was indicted in federal court and trying to get his sentence reduced, was simply not telling the truth about how and when he acquired the anhydrous ammonia tank or much else beyond his name. The witness was not believed by the jury. Dean’s client was loved by everyone in the small community in southern Iowa, had a great family, and even the local Sheriff testified that the client would not do such a thing as alleged. The jury found Dean’s client not guilty within 45 minutes of deliberations and later reported they were ready to decide once Dean was done cross-examining the key informant witness.
This client was accused of propositioning his niece and fondling her. The defense was that it didn’t happen and that the niece was upset with her uncle for not helping her financially and that she was attempting to use the claim to extort money from him. These types of cases typically come down to the cross examination of the alleged victim by the defense lawyer. Dean believes in preparation and organization to enable the most effective examination of the witness possible. The client was found not guilty.
Drunken/Drugged Driving or “Sleep Driving”
The client in this unique 2007 case took Ambien after having a few beers and went to bed. He did not stay in bed, however. Instead he arose, got his car keys, and drove his car through downtown Des Moines to get something to eat at a drive-through. He then drove the wrong way on a one-way street with which he was very familiar and was stopped and arrested by the police on suspicion of drunk driving. The videotape from the officer’s car and the booking video showed that the client was wearing boxer shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt, and no shoes on a rainy night and that he appeared very groggy and slow to respond. Because of the rain, the officer performed no field sobriety tests. The client had absolutely no memory of the events. Investigation revealed that the client would sleep walk frequently and that there are a number of widely-reported incidents of sleep-driving across the country associated with Ambien. Dean took the position that his client, who had allegedly refused the breath test, had not done so consciously such that the test refusal could not be used against him. The court agreed. At trial, Dean defended on the theory that there was simply no evidence of alcohol intoxication and he was found not guilty.
Drunken While Driving or Drunk After Driving
This sad case involved a client charged with drunk driving. The client went off a rural road into a ditch after swerving to avoid a deer. The client had a twelve pack of beer in his truck and decided to have a few and either get help later, or sleep in the vehicle. Eventually, it got too cold, and he went to a nearby farmhouse where an elderly farmer was kind enough to offer to use his tractor to pull him from the ditch. While driving down the road on the tractor, the tractor flipped and trapped the farmer underneath, killing him. The client ran back to the farmhouse and called the police, who initially thought the client may have run into the tractor or caused the tractor to flip. The client was eventually charged and put on trial for drunk driving based upon the results of a breath test. The defense was that the client had consumed beer after he last operated the vehicle and became intoxicated after he last drove. After he provided some emotional testimony about that traumatic evening, the client was found not guilty.
Distribution of Pornography Via The Internet
In 2005, Dean represented this client on a charge of distribution of child pornography via the internet. This case involved some curious facts. There was a single photographic image at issue and the undercover officer from Ohio’s computer allegedly crashed during the effort to save the electronic data showing the source of the image. The same image was not saved on the client’s computer that was seized by law enforcement according to a forensic exam. Through cross examination of the State’s computer forensics expert, Dean was able to get the expert to concede several key points, including that there was no way to establish that the picture in question was not distributed by another person who was also in the same chat room at the same time as the detective from Ohio. Dean also worked closely with a professional photographer who served as an expert witness. The photographer testified that the photo appeared to be a cut-and-paste composite image based upon inconsistent shadowing between the body and face, and he demonstrated for the jury how easy that would be to do using common software. This client was found not guilty in one of the few known cases where a defendant has avoided conviction of such a charge.