Iowa Supreme Court rules in favor of Iowa City in ​​police wrongful prosecution case

In an opinion released on Friday, the court said Josh Venckus, who accused Iowa City police detective Andrew Rich of wrongful prosecution, did not have enough evidence to prove wrongful prosecution.


Johnson County Courthouse.

Alejandro Rojas, News Reporter

The Iowa Supreme Court released its opinion the morning of Friday, May 19, in the case of an Iowa City man who was charged with and later acquitted by a jury of sexual abuse in 2013.

The case involved Josh Venckus, who accused Iowa City Police Department detective Andrew Rich of wrongful prosecution, which is a common law crime and constitutional tort in Iowa. Venckus filed a lawsuit against Rich in 2018.

In its opinion, the court sided with Iowa City and Rich, writing that using a probable cause standard, Rich had probable cause.

“Detective Rich had probable cause sufficient to defeat a malicious prosecution claim if he reasonably believed that Venckus had committed sexual assault,” the court wrote.

The court further explained that there were two other reasons that Venckus’ claims fell short. The first was that at all times from Venckus’ arrest to his acquittal, there was probable cause to pursue charges against him. The court wrote that an important part of this was the finding of Venckus’ DNA on the victim.

The second reason his claims fell short, the court writes, was that Rich did not cause the prosecution to continue. Even if Rich had wanted the case to end, that decision would not have been his but the prosecutions.

With this evidence in mind, the court decided to dismiss the case, siding with the City of Iowa City and Rich.

The trial began with a brief filed to the Iowa Supreme Court by his lawyers in February, in which Venckus alleged that Rich had ignored a lapse in the state’s timeline of events. Venckus said he was in Chicago at his parents’ residence at the time of the crime.

The filing also wrote that during a deposition, Rich admitted he still believed Venckus was guilty and continued with the prosecution when Venckus’ alibi was revealed. Rich also reportedly said he believed Venckus was guilty even if he could not prove it.

The filing also alleged that DNA evidence revealed that another suspect was identified but was ignored by Rich, according to a complaint filed by Venckus’ attorneys.

At the time, the City of Iowa City and Rich argued that Venckus’ own admission that the state had probable cause to charge him proves that the claim of malicious prosecution isn’t warranted.