Leonard Ray Russell won’t get a new day in court.
Russell, convicted of human trafficking, among other charges, will continue to serve a 25-year prison sentence for his part in the forced prostitution of two Nebraska teens.
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the conviction Wednesday, although it said the state did not have authority to levy a $1,000 fine against Russell. The case, tried in Denison, Iowa, was the state’s first conviction under its 2006 human trafficking laws.
Russell will be resentenced to address the errant fine.
His conviction came more than a year after two girls, ages 15 and 16, ran away from a Fremont, Neb., group home and met Russell at an Omaha motel. He gave the girls fake identification cards and took them to Iowa and then Illinois, where they performed at strip clubs and solicited sex. The bulk of the money they earned was turned over to Russell in exchange for food and shelter, according to court testimony.
Russell appealed his conviction on several grounds, arguing that his lawyer was ineffective and did not adequately argue against the prosecution’s claim that Russell was guilty of ongoing criminal conduct and human trafficking.
The appeals court denied both of those claims, saying his lawyer did argue against the state’s claims, but the state proved its case.
Russell also said District Court Judge Edward Jacobson made a mistake by not granting Russell a new trial immediately after his conviction. Russell had argued that the two Nebraska teens, who testified against him at trial, weren’t credible witnesses.
In denying the motion for a new trial, Jacobson said “these certainly were not the most credible witnesses I have ever heard testify.” According to Jacobson, the girls told the jury that they had lied while giving statements but were telling the truth at trial. The jurors were allowed to decide the credibility of witnesses for themselves, Jacobson said. The appeals court upheld Jacobson’s decision.
Convicted murderer loses second appeal
For the second time, Dennis E. Stonerook lost an appeal of his conviction for first-degree murder.
Stonerook was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Mark Mayberry in 2005 at Midwest Lanes bowling alley in Glenwood, Iowa. Stonerook shot Mayberry four times with a .44-caliber rifle in front of about 35 witnesses.
Stonerook appealed the verdict in 2006, contending that the jury was not properly instructed. The appeals court denied the appeal.
In his latest bid, Stonerook appealed a district court dismissal of a post-conviction relief petition in 2007.
On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals ruled that the dismissal was correct.