Kole Higgins

Higgins handed 90 days in jail on drug charges

Staff report

A 24-year-old Scranton man who was facing up to 20 years in prison for his role in a “large-scale drug trafficking network” will serve 90 days in jail, a judge ruled Friday. 

After leaving jail, Kole Higgins will be required to reside at a halfway house “until maximum benefits are received therefrom,” Associate Judge Joseph McCarville ruled in Greene County district court.

Higgins also will be on probation for three years, according to Assistant County Attorney Thomas Laehn, who prosecuted the case in August.

Violation of probation, Laehn said, could potentially send Higgins to prison for 10 years.

Higgins was found guilty by a Greene County jury of six drug-related charges — three of them felonies. 

Authorities in April arrested Higgins after searching his house and garage in the 1100 block of Lincoln Street in Scranton, where they found more than two pounds of marijuana and nearly $1,000 in cash.

 At Higgins’ sentencing Friday, his attorney, Mark Rasmussen, recommended probation. Laehn recommended a one-year jail sentence followed by probation.

Higgins’ punishment is “more lenient than the sentence I recommended,” Laehn said, “but it was a fair outcome.”

Laehn, who is running unopposed for county attorney on the Nov. 6 ballot, has vowed to “aggressively prosecute crime.”

At a candidate forum the night before Higgins’ sentencing, Laehn noted a series of recent search warrants and indictments in Scranton and Grand Junction that have had a “significant impact on the flow of illegal drugs into Greene County.”

He said their targets have been dealers who aren’t just selling to users, but other dealers.

“We’re working our way up the food chain,” Laehn said.

Investigators suspected Higgins of also dealing cocaine — noting a poster on his wall of a trim, mustachioed man with the words “There’s no business like blow business”  on it — but found none of it during their search, court records show.

“The traffic that we have observed at Kole’s residence and logged in the past few days shows that he is distributing illegal narcotics out of the house,”  Greene County Sheriff Jack Williams wrote in his request for a search warrant.

Higgins faced seven criminal charges and was found guilty of six of them, including three felonies: Controlled substance violation, failure to affix drug stamp and gathering where controlled substances are used.

Judge McCarville was the subject of Williams’ ire back in April, when he fumed to The Jefferson Herald about what he felt was lax punishment in McCarville’s courtroom.

“He’s fighting for punishment,” Williams said of Laehn, “and getting nothing in return.”

McCarville, who is up for retention on the November ballot, ranked the lowest of nine judges in Iowa judicial district 2B on a biennial performance evaluation of the state’s judges released this month by the Iowa State Bar Association.

While all 64 judges in Iowa standing for retention Nov. 6 are qualified to remain on the bench, the state bar association announced, McCarville’s score was far below those of his colleagues, scoring a 65 percent retention rate.

With exception to Judge Paul Ahlers, of Webster City, who scored 85 percent, all others in District 2B ranked in the high 90s, with Judge Kim Riley, of Marshalltown, scoring 100 percent.

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