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Defense: accused college officials were allowed to alter transcripts.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Attorneys representing four officials from Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge said charges of falsifying transcripts should be dropped because the officials are authorized to make or alter such records.

College president Robert Paxton, Vice President Tom Beneke, athletics director Dennis Pilcher and football coach Kevin Twait pleaded innocent in early February. They are accused of falsifying transcripts so three students would be eligible for athletics, including football player B.J. Van Briesen.

In a recent hearing, defense attorneys said they plan to argue that the charges are inappropriate because a state law forbidding the falsification of public documents can't be used against public officials who are authorized to prepare and change documents, such as transcripts.

The defense attorneys cited a 2000 Iowa Supreme Court decision, which states that falsifying public documents can be applied only to those who have "no right or authority" to make or alter the document.

In that decision, the court also determined that the law "applies to unauthorized documents, not false documents.

"A person who is authorized to make a public document, but places false information in the document, may have committed a crime, but not necessarily under" this statute, the court concluded.

This decision meant that Beneke, who was authorized to prepare the documents, can't be found guilty of a violation, his attorney Monty Fisher, said in a court brief.

Webster County Attorney Ron Robertson said the argument was not grounds enough to have the nine-count indictment dismissed.

During the 2000 season, Van Briesen had been certified to play when he should have been ineligible, records showed. Iowa Central had to forfeit all six of its victories that year.

All four of the officials are accused of tampering with Van Briesen's records. Van Briesen, an offensive lineman, joined the team after being declared academically ineligible at the University of Iowa.

Paxton, Beneke and Pilcher also are accused of falsifying the records of Tyson Haakinson, a soccer player. Pilcher is accused of falsifying the records of Cory Braunschweig, who used to play golf at Drake University.
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Publication:Community College Week
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:345
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