Kasemeier does not change plea to guilty; July 1 hearing now set to schedule trial on initial charge of Murder in the First Degree

Does not change plea to guilty, will now stand trial ... Allamakee County Sheriff Deputies escort Brandon Kasemeier and his attorney into the large courtroom at the Allamakee County Courthouse in Waukon during a Monday, June 10 hearing. With the hearing having been scheduled in anticipation of Kasemeier entering a guilty plea to a charge of Murder in the Second Degree per his request and a motion originally filed in mid-April of this year, Kasemeier instead opted not to change his plea during Monday’s hearing and will now stand trial on a charge of Murder in the First Degree, with a July 1 hearing now scheduled to try and determine that trial date. Photo by Sharon Drahn, Contributing Writer.

by Sharon Drahn, Contributing Writer

Brandon Kasemeier, the 40-year-old man from Waukon charged in the January 21 death of his estranged wife, Jami Kasemeier, appeared in Allamakee County District Court Monday morning, June 10 for a dual purpose hearing in the case.

Following a request by Kasemeier and a motion filed by his attorney, Aaron Hawbaker of the Waterloo Public Defender’s Office, in mid-April of this year, Monday’s hearing was expected to include a change in plea by Kasemeier from his original plea of not guilty on the charge of Murder in the First Degree he entered in early March to a plea of guilty on a charge of Murder in the Second Degree, with sentencing in the case expected to follow. The other purpose of Monday’s hearing was to rule on a motion filed in April of this year for a request for transport of Kasemeier to a follow-up healthcare appointment outside Allamakee County for a dental procedure that he had begun in November 2023, prior to Kasemeier’s arrest in January of this year.

With Iowa’s First Judicial District Court Judge Alan Heavens on the bench, the request for transportation for a dental procedure outside of Allamakee County was presented by Kasemeier’s attorney. Hawbaker said the treatment had begun prior to Kasemeier’s arrest and, for the health and wellbeing of Kasemeier, it would be wise to allow his transport to the facility where the procedure was begun.

Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke, emphasizing the strain such a transport would put on local law enforcement and reemphasizing points he had made in a resistance he filed in response to that request for transport, called Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick to the stand. Mellick said it would take a minimum of two deputies to transport Kasemeier to the appointment, placing a strain on law enforcement availability within the county. He added that the dental facility would, more than likely, not be secure.

In issuing his opinion to deny the request, Judge Heavens cited the fact that while incarcerated prisoners are assured their basic needs of food and shelter, extraordinary requests are normally not granted. Currently, all of Kasemeier’s needs are being met adequately and his health is not in jeopardy, he explained. Judge Heavens further noted that allowing such a transport would set a precedence for Allamakee and also Clayton County.

Following the judge’s ruling denying the request for transport, Kasemeier asked if he could meet with his attorney before the plea portion of Monday’s hearing was expected to take place. Judge Heavens granted a brief recess of the proceedings to allow that discussion to take place.

Court resumed after a short break, with Judge Heavens proceeding to ask Hawbaker if his client was prepared to proceed with his plea. Speaking for Kasemeier, Hawbaker said his client is no longer prepared to accept a plea of Murder in the Second Degree, a statement contrary to the original request and motion filed in April for a change in plea, which canceled the original jury trial set in the case for May 15. Kasemeier had also filed a waiver of speedy trial in early April of this year.

While citing attorney/client privilege, Heavens explained no plea would be made and no further explanation would be given as to why the change in plea decision was made. In a follow-up interview, County Attorney Gericke later explained that no matter what had been filed or requested in the past, a defendant has the right to change his/her mind right up until the time when such a decision is entered into the court proceedings.

“It was not what was anticipated, but it is now what we are left with, and we will move forward,” Gericke stated.

When asked if there would be any further consideration of another plea agreement in the future in this case, Gericke said that would not be likely. “I’d never say never,” he shared, “but following this change from what was anticipated, any plea agreements would have to be considered to be off the table, unless some unique circumstance would present itself.”

With the change in plea withdrawn by Hawbaker on behalf of Kasemeier, Judge Heavens set Monday, July 1 for a trial status review hearing in Allamakee County District Court, at which time a date will be set for a jury trial on the original charge of Murder in the First Degree. That hearing has been scheduled to be held by Zoom networking software, with Kasemeier appearing remotely and not having to be present in person in the courtroom.

County Attorney Gericke said he will now reach out to the State of Iowa Attorney General’s Office to try and determine a trial date in accordance with the State of Iowa attorney assisting in the case. He anticipates that trial will be held later this year.

“We’ll go back to work preparing things for trial as we had been doing a couple months ago, prior to the requested plea agreement,” Gericke explained. “The most difficult part will be putting the family through all of the hardship and negatives that accompany a trial like this.”

Family and friends of Jami Kasemeier were in attendance at Monday’s hearing, many of them wearing t-shirts with “Justice for Jami” and an image of her face printed on them. While visibly distraught at the change in direction of Monday’s proceedings, they all stood in unison outside the courthouse in support of one another and their fallen loved one.

According to legal definition, a component of specific intent or premeditation is the main difference in proving Murder in the First Degree Murder over Murder in the Second Degree Murder. In the state of Iowa, Murder in the Second Degree is a Class B felony and comes with a sentence of 50 years in prison with a mandatory 70% of that 50-year sentence required to be served - 35 years - before any consideration of parole. Murder in the First Degree in the state of Iowa is a Class A felony and carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for adult offenders.

Kasemeier had originally entered a written plea of not guilty March 11 of this year to the initial charge of Murder in the First Degree in the case after the January 22 discovery of his wife’s body in his Waukon residence and his coinciding journey by vehicle to Colorado, where he was arrested by Larimer County, CO Sheriff Department deputies within 24 hours of that discovery made in his home in Waukon. He was extradited back to Allamakee County in mid-February and has been held in the Allamakee County Jail since.

A Motion for Further Proceedings was filed April 19 by Hawbaker “for the purpose of a change of a plea and sentencing as the parties have reached an agreement,” according to court documents. In response to that motion, Judge Heavens originally scheduled a plea and sentencing hearing for Kasemeier for May 20.

After Hawbaker had filed the request for transport April 22, he then filed a motion for continuance May 6, citing in the filed motion that he needed additional time to meet with Kasemeier. That continuance was granted by Iowa First Judicial District Judge Richard Stochl, leading to Monday’s hearing.