Contractors Authorized for Courthouse Break-in; Iowa Court Admin Apologizes for Confusion

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Instead of sentencing burglars to prison time, the Iowa Judicial Branch is admitting to putting a pair of accused burglars on the payroll.

Two men were arrested for breaking into the Dallas County Courthouse last week, and told law enforcement they were hired to do so by the judicial branch.

Justin Wynn of Naples, Florida and Gary Demercurio of Seattle, Washington were contracted through a security firm called Coalfire, which hired them as "penetration testers" for the judicial branch.

According to their contract, their job was: to test the "adequacy and effectiveness" of security in place at various buildings in Iowa. These included the Polk County Courthouse, the Dallas County Courthouse and the state Judicial Branch Building.

Wynn and Demercurio were hired to simulate a real-world attack by testing the security and to find any vulnerabilities the judiciary branch could then address. Clearly, the security system did its job. The alarm system was triggered and law enforcement found the two men walking around the Dallas County Courthouse around midnight on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Deputies arrested the two for the job they were hired to do. But part of the contract read that law enforcement would not be informed in advance. There were a lot of contradictory expectations and rules in the contract that might have lead to the confusion.

For example, one page read that they could go in the day or evening, but another said it must be during business hours, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Another page said they were permitted to perform lock-picking, which was contradicted with a separate page that prohibited forcing-open doors.

The Iowa Court Administration issued a statement Wednesday that it "apologizes to the sheriffs and boards of supervisors of Dallas County and Polk County for the confusion and impact these incidents have caused."

The statement also said that state court administrators "did not intend, or anticipate, those efforts to include the forced entry into a building."

Both Coalfire and the Iowa Judicial Branch are now independently reviewing the contract.

Wynn and Demercurio have been charged with third-degree burglary and possession of burglary tools from the Dallas County break-in; bond has been set at $50,000 for both men. The Polk County incident remains under investigation.

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