Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — A Libertyville man who was found not guilty of arson and insurance fraud has pleaded guilty to witness tampering of a person who testified in that case.
Lucas McCoy, 40, a former member of the Libertyville Fire Department, entered the guilty plea on Thursday, just a few weeks after he was found not guilty by a Jefferson County jury of intentionally setting his own home on fire in 2020, as prosecutors alleged.
A news release from the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office states that McCoy admitted to harassing a witness in his arson and insurance fraud case, and that he did so with the intent to influence that witness’s testimony in the case against him. The release states that McCoy made repeated contact with this witness February through April of this year, which included:
•Repeated incidents of trespass at the victim’s home, including blocking vehicles in the driveway and trespassing in the early morning hours.
•Repeated incidents of trespass at the victim’s place of work.
•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 sentenced to 180 days in jail, but that sentence is suspended, meaning he may not need to serve jail time depending on his probation. He was also given a no-contact order with the victim, and ordered to pay fines and court costs.
The witness that McCoy admitted to tampering with did testify in his arson and insurance fraud trial, which ended Oct. 25. Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding said he cannot say for sure whether McCoy’s effort to tamper with this witness affected her testimony.
“I do not believe this witness perjured herself at trial, but may have been more forthcoming and open about her knowledge of the facts if not for the harassment,” Moulding said. “It is a fact that the harassment occurred, although I can not gauge the impact with any certainty at this point.”
Moulding said the jury in the arson case was not made aware of the witness tampering charge filed against McCoy in April even though it related to the case. He said the only evidence of McCoy’s prior criminal record that was relevant to the arson case and presented to the jury was McCoy’s arrest and conviction for criminal mischief that occurred the morning of his house fire in October of 2020.
Moulding said that he is displeased with the Iowa Legislature for setting a maximum penalty for witness tampering at two years of incarceration. Had McCoy been convicted of both the arson and insurance fraud charges, he could have been incarcerated for up to 15 years. Moulding said this creates a perverse incentive for suspects charged with crimes to intimidate witnesses, since they know the penalty for witness tampering is much less severe.
“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,” he said. “This is a loophole which must be addressed by Iowa’s lawmakers. … Obstructing a felony prosecution should not remain a misdemeanor offense.”
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at email@example.com