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Runge cops plea; turning on Wheeler?

February 17, 2011

It appears that the week-and-a-half felony trial of Wendy Weiner Runge was a plea negotiation by other means. The Minnesota filmmaker pleaded guilty to a single felony fraud charge in exchange for restitution and cooperation with prosecutors, reports the Des Moines Register:

The plea agreement with prosecutors means Runge, 45, will likely face less time in prison than she would have if convicted of all five felony counts brought against her by Iowa's attorney general. Before the plea, the novice filmmaker could have faced between 10 years and 65 years behind bars.

This would seem to be bad news to designated official goat Tom Wheeler, the disgraced head of the Iowa Film Office. He faces felony "misconduct in office" charges related to the scandal. Again from the Register:

Runge admitted to District Judge Douglas Staskal that she made false statements to procure state tax credits for both unfinished projects. But she also hedged a bit, saying she was "directed to do so by Tom Wheeler," head of the Iowa Film Office.

Whether or not Mr. Wheeler is found guilty of criminal charges, it's a shame that the real masterminds of the debacle -- The 143 legislators who voted for the absurd Film credit program, and the Governor and his aides who appointed and "supervised" him -- won't even have to apologize.

Update: the defendant blogs that she is "victorious." Pleading guilty to a felony must be a new kind of victory dance.


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I think the "victory" is that the government dropped the primary charges (ultimately 14 of the original 15 charges) and she did not plead guilty to inflation of costs or anything to do with The Scientist which was the primary scope of the trial. All she plead to was that she switched applications upon advice of Wheeler...While she plead guilty to a felony Id hardly call this a win for the state

Taxpayer, may you never find yourself in a position where pleading guilty to a felony counts as a win.

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