Wrong Side of the Bars

WOODBURY COUNTY, Iowa  --  Almost a decade after a Sioux City jury found former Creston Police Chief James Christensen guilty of second degree sexual abuse, his family is still fighting to prove his innocence.  They are waiting to head back to the same Woodbury County courtroom where his fate was sealed to present what they claim is new evidence in the hopes of getting him a new trial.

“I think if the jurors got the whole truth, he wouldn't be here,” said sister Jana Weland.

Christensen and former Assistant Chief John Sickels were tried, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years behind bars in May 2009.

Alec Christensen was just 14 years old when his dad went to prison.  Nearly every week, he visits his dad at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville.

“If I even had a shadow of a doubt that I really believed my dad would have done anything like that or allowed something like that to happen, I wouldn't be here.  I wouldn't support him the way that I do.  I know that he didn't, so that's why I'm here every weekend,” said Alec.

The father-son routine includes a game of cribbage and pizza.

“We avoid the topic sometimes, but you don't forget where you are,” said Alec.

After his May 2009 conviction for aiding and abetting in the rape of a woman after hours at the country club in Creston, Christensen filed an appeal.  The following November, the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld his sexual assault conviction. An appeal to the Iowa Supreme court went nowhere when the court declined to review his case.  In April 2015, six years into his 25 year prison sentence, Christensen's application for Post-Conviction Relief was struck down, first in the district and then in the appellate courts.

Fast forward to March of this year,  Christensen's attorney filed a second application for Post-Conviction Relief.  His attorney is citing newly-discovered evidence that contradicts what the victim testified to under oath during the trial.

“The person I said goodbye to the day before the trial is not the person who he really is anymore.  He's lost a lot of hope,” agreed Alec.

But Alec says he isn’t giving up hope.  They see the upcoming hearing as Christensen's last shot to walk out of prison a free man.

“He's not the same Jamie,  he is broken,’ said Jana.

“If I do nothing, then I'm a part of the problem.  So the only way you get a solution is you fight it and you don't stop,” said Lyndsay Krings, Alec’s mom.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office issued the following statement:

“We believe Iowa courts have ruled correctly in Mr. Christensen’s case. This is his second application for postconviction relief.  He was convicted in 2009 and the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction. The district court denied his first application for postconviction relief and the Iowa Court of Appeals again affirmed the conviction.

“In this application, the state of Iowa has filed an answer in the case denying any basis for the reversal of Mr. Christensen's conviction.  As the matter is pending, further comment would be inconsistent with the ethical duties of the attorneys involved.” 

Christensen's hearing was set for May 31st in Sioux City, but has since been postponed to September 20th.  A request to speak to Christensen behind bars was denied by the Department of Corrections out of the respect for the victim in this case.