- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday ordered a new trial for a former city attorney who had faced prison time for submitting fraudulent bills.

The court overturned the conviction of ex-Indianola city attorney John Hoyman, who concedes he submitted inaccurate billing statements but never inflated the number of hours he actually worked.

Jurors acquitted Hoyman of theft but found him guilty of first-degree fraudulent practice at a trial last year. A judge sentenced him to a term of up to 10 years in prison, but Hoyman has been free on appeal.

Agreeing with Hoyman’s arguments, the court ruled that the jury instructions were flawed because they didn’t require proof that Hoyman intended to deceive the city.

Justices said intent to deceive is an element for the crime of fraudulent practice, which makes it illegal to make false statements on public records. Without intent, the court said the felony crime was so broad that it could have applied to public officials who make “trivial misstatements” such as using an incorrect address on old stationery.

Defense attorney Mark Weinhardt said Hoyman and his family were thrilled by Friday’s decision.

“Today’s ruling will allow Mr. Hoyman to present his defenses in a fair trial before a properly instructed jury,” he said.

Justices did not rule on whether the judge, Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, erred when she refused to step aside from the case based on her relationship with the prosecutor. Hoyman had sought her recusal after learning that her husband was friends with the prosecutor and her daughter had been the flower girl in his 2010 wedding. The high court used its discretion to order that a different judge preside over the next trial.

Hoyman, 57, worked in private practice and for years as the city’s part-time attorney, prosecuting misdemeanor and traffic cases and advising the City Council. He received a monthly retainer of $1,000 plus hourly work for trials and civil matters.

Hoyman eventually let his billing practices get sloppy, listing fictitious names, acquaintances or people picked out of the phone book randomly as people he prosecuted.

Hoyman had billed for trials on some days when none took place and for more trials than took place in a single day. Hoyman contended that those hours were simply mislabeled as trial work, and they compensated for underbilling in other areas. He also said city officials condoned the practice.

The attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case, is reviewing the ruling and considering how to proceed, spokesman Geoff Greenwood said.


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