Rural Iowa newspaper stares down police lawsuit

Rural Iowa newspaper reported police officer’s sexual relationship with teen. Paper won lawsuit but still struggling with expenses related to it

Reporting on a police officer’s sexual relationship  with a teen sparked a lawsuit against our family-owned newspaper in rural Iowa, costing the Carroll Times Herald thousands of dollars to fight and leading to other revenue loss.

Standing up to the patriarchy, particularly in a rural reach of the nation, and especially now, is a financially perilous choice, one fraught with pressures from a host of sources and power centers, many of whom sought to kill the story and then retaliated against the newspaper.

We published the stories, and would again, but the legal bills and other expenses and losses, even after our libel insurance, jeopardize the local ownership of the newspaper.

If you want newspapers like the Carroll (Iowa) Times Herald to continue to stand up to law enforcement when needed, and fight for what’s right for young women, please consider donating after you read about the libel case — which we won :

The Carroll Times Herald’s account of what led a former Carroll police officer to resign under the threat of termination in July 2017 was accurate, a district judge ruled when he dismissed the officer’s lawsuit against the newspaper and its reporter Jared Strong.

Jacob Smith, then 26, resigned July 17 amid the newspaper’s investigation into his relationships with teenage girls and women.

He was fired from his first police job in Sumner — his hometown in eastern Iowa — in 2015, in part because he sent inappropriate private messages on Facebook to a 16-year-old girl, according to recordings from a series of city council meetings that preceded his termination.

In 2016 as a police officer in Carroll, he began a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl whom he met while on-duty, and the girl later moved into his Carroll house before she graduated from high school the next year.

Smith admitted in a lawsuit deposition that his relationship with the girl “wasn’t right” and that having sex with a 17-year-old “looks like shit,” court records show.

Those admissions from the officer considered, the newspaper spent the better part of a year defending itself in the libel case.

In the age of #metoo, this type of coverage is more important than ever. Please consider supporting a local newspaper committed to covering these stories when they happen rather than sweeping them under the rug.
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Douglas Burns
Carroll, IA

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