Cassie Pence, a Newton stay-at-home mother with two young children, was coming home from doing some laundry and picking up the oldest of her children from school at approximately 3:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, when her life suddenly spun out of control.
“I was walking up to the front door when this GMC Tahoe pulled up into my yard,” she said. “Not my driveway, my yard. This guy got out of it and began walking up, yelling and demanding to see Cody or Eric.’”
No one by those names lived in the home at the time, nor did she know anyone by those names. Realizing the man, later identified as Daniel Jay Jensen, 50, also of Newton, was attempting to enter her home, she rushed inside and tried to close the front door.
“We kind of met at the door, and as I was trying to unlock the door, it turned into this sort of tug-of-war,” she said. “I pulled the door back toward me, and I said, ‘No! Can I help you?’ He asked if Cody or Eric were here, because he was going to ‘kill those [profanity]’ for what they did to his family.”
Pence, despite being five-and-a-half months pregnant, said she was able to fend Jensen off, kicking him in the knee and choking him to get him to move out of the doorway as he grabbed her arm. Once he was outside, she shut and locked her front door.
Pence said Jensen continued to shout at her through the door while she dialed 911. Eventually he made a threatening gesture to her, got back in his SUV and drove off. Officers with the Newton Police Department found him at his home a few blocks away about 30 minutes later.
Pence positively identified Jensen as the man who attacked her, and he was arrested and taken to the Jasper County Jail. Based on Jensen’s statement, he was charged with third-degree burglary.
“I never knew him before. I had no idea who he was,” she said. “Once I got his name, I realized this was the same guy who had done this before.”
Jensen, at the time of his arrest, was out on $10,000 bond, awaiting trial for a Feb. 26 incident in which he was alleged to have stormed into a rural Newton home and attacked the homeowner with a claw hammer. That case is currently set to go to trial July 24.
Pence discovered this information only after checking Iowa Courts Online. She soon discovered that Jensen has an extensive criminal history that dates back more than 20 years. But what concerned her most was that Jensen was walking free in the first place.
“Why is a man who was charged with two Class B felonies less than three months ago free? So free, in fact, he was inclined to attempt entry into my home and physically assault me to do so,” Pence asked. “I had no defense other than my physical being, and this man randomly chose my home and me to attack. I say this should have been prevented altogether, but it wasn’t.”
According to a spokesman for the Iowa Judicial Branch, there won’t be any answers coming, at least not anytime soon. Communications Officer Steve Davis said state law and codes of conduct prevent judges and court staff from commenting.
“The Judicial Code of Conduct limits what judges and court staff may say about court cases,” he said. “Judges and staff must abstain from commenting on pending and future cases. The purpose of this restriction is to avoid the possibility that the comments of a judge or the judge’s staff would affect the outcome of a case. The Judicial Code of Conduct is in Chapter 51 of the Iowa Court Rules.”
Less than 24 hours after the May 9 incident, Jensen was out of jail again, this time on a $2,000 bond. In Iowa, defendants can be released after posting cash equal to 10 percent of the bond amount.
“I was contacted by Newton P.D. that he was released by the judge [Friday] afternoon,” Pence said. “Seriously, what is wrong with our justice system? I shouldn’t have to fear for my life or my children’s lives. Aren’t they supposed to be there to keep us safe? I’m so very disappointed.”
Jensen was first charged in October of 1992 with second-degree burglary in Marshall County. Those charges were later amended, and he was convicted of violation of a no-contact order, trespassing and fifth-degree theft, for which he received a sentence of three days in jail and was fined $25.
A few months later, in December of 1992, he was charged with trespassing (two counts), domestic abuse assault, simple assault, violation of a no-contact order, stalking (first offense), and fourth-degree criminal mischief as a result of three separate incidents in Marshall County. He was ultimately convicted on all of those charges but was given deferred judgments on all three cases.
Davis said the state does not have any rules or guidelines that govern the use of deferred judgments, other than what is set forth in Section 907.3 of the Iowa Code.
That section states, in part, that deferred judgments — or “similar relief” (e.g. deferred sentence or suspended sentence) — may not be granted more than twice. It also states deferred judgments cannot be granted if, prior to the commission of the offense, the defendant had been granted a deferred judgment or deferred sentence for domestic abuse assault.
Jensen returned to court in March of 1994 for making a false report and for operating a vehicle without a driver’s license. He was convicted of those charges and fined, although online court records do not indicate how much he was fined.
He was similarly convicted of an open-container violation in July of 1995. He had a second alcohol-related conviction in April of 1997. In September of that year, he was charged with interference with official acts and trespassing and was later convicted of both in October of 1997 and February of 1998, respectively. He spent seven days in jail, according to online court records.
Jensen was then charged Jan. 19, 2010, with second-degree sexual abuse stemming from an incident alleged to have happened in 2006. According to a complaint filed by the Iowa City Police Department, Jensen was accused of holding a woman against her will for 12 hours in his apartment, threatening her with a hammer and ordering her to remove her clothes.
The police report also stated Jensen was alleged to have forced the woman to have sex with him and that he injected her multiple times with what she thought was a narcotic drug. A jury ultimately acquitted him of that charge after a three-day trial in July of last year.
According to The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Jensen was in and out of the Johnson County Jail’s custody during the trial. One month after he was charged in the original case, he was arrested in Hardin County and charged with felony forgery.
He eventually entered into a plea agreement in that case, and was convicted of second-degree burglary and two counts of forgery. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and was being held in the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility while he awaited trial on the sexual assault charge.
According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, Jensen was released from its custody in October of 2012.
When she learned of these details, Pence said, she became concerned for her own safety. She said at no time did anyone tell her she could request a no-contact or similar protective order from the court.
“I contacted the Clerk of Court to find out if I could speak with the judge, but they stopped me right away and said I can only write a letter,” she said. “What good is that going to do? Is this where our tax money goes? Wow!”
Davis said the court is forbidden by its own Code of Conduct from commenting on either pending case against Jensen. He said each case “presents a judge with different circumstances and considerations” when it comes to setting bond and sentencing.
Jensen remains out on bond in the case involving Pence. A pretrial conference was held Wednesday, and the case was continued. A new pretrial conference has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 17.
Editor’s Note: A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.