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TMCNet:  Supreme Ct. dismisses complaint against Meskwaki attorney

[November 30, 2012]

Supreme Ct. dismisses complaint against Meskwaki attorney

TAMA, Iowa, Nov 30, 2012 (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed a complaint against a Minnesota attorney who represented Meskwaki tribe in Tama in connection with a software project designed to verify Native American ancestry.

Court records said Jeffrey Rasmussen, a Minnesota attorney, grabbed a computer server from a DNA software company as part of a repossession after the tribe's relationship with the business soured in 2006.

The Iowa attorney grievance commission had recommended Rasmussen cease and desist practicing law in Iowa for 60 days, claiming he carried out the repossession under false pretenses and waited until after had the computer to serve tribal court papers for the seizure.

In a ruling handed down Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court expressed reservations over what it called Rasmussen's "self-help repossession" on behalf of the tribe. But it ruled he didn't violate any disciplinary rule.

It denied sanctions and threw out the complaint.

Last year, the high court also dismissed complaints about another Minnesota attorney, Steven Olson, over the same incident.

According to court records, Meskwaki tribe, also known as the Sac and Fox tribe in Iowa, loaned a company called DNA Today $1 million to develop software that would determine if a person was a bona fide member of an Indian tribe.

The loan was secured by company assets, including computer software.

When DNA Today ran in to financial problems and began seeing funding elsewhere, the tribe filed for a breach of the loan agreement in tribal court in August 2006 and obtained a repossession order.

Three days later, the attorneys and tribe officials met for what DNA Today employees thought was going to be a software demonstration in connection with the company's request for more tribal financing.

But attorneys for the tribe planned to repossess the source code, and Rasmussen picked up the computer and left the building during the meeting. Minutes later, a man identifying himself as member of the tribal police handed DNA Today workers court papers explaining the repossession.

___ (c)2012 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) Visit Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) at www.wcfcourier.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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