Minnesota filmmaker Wendy Weiner Runge’s appeal of her 10-year prison sentence was denied by an Iowa appeals court last week. Runge claimed that the trial judge improperly considered comments she made during her trial on her blog attacking prosecutors and the judge. Runge also claimed that the charges against her were filed as result of antisemitism.
Wendy Weiner Runge Loses Appeal, Will Continue To Serve 10 Year Sentence
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Minnesota haredi filmmaker Wendy Weiner Runge’s appeal of her 10-year prison sentence was denied by an Iowa appeals court last week, the Associated Press reported.
Runge claimed the trial judge improperly considered comments she made on her blog during her trial attacking prosecutors and the judge. Runge also claimed that the charges against her were filed as result of antisemitism.
Runge pleaded guilty to defrauding the State of Iowa in what became known as the Iowa Film Office scandal. A co-owner of Minneapolis-based Polynation Pictures, Runge was accused of inflating expenses on applications for film tax credits offered by the state. Polynation Pictures received $1.8 million in incentives from the State of Iowa to make the low budget film.
Two of Runge’s partners pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation.
Runge's appeal claims that Judge Douglas Staskal violated her rights to free speech when he considered her blog posts at sentencing.
In some posts, Runge accused prosecutors of engaging in political games. She also criticized the judge, writing that her lawyer found Staskal to be unprofessional.
The blog posts were given to Staskal, who cited them at Runge's sentencing hearing, telling Runge that the posts indicate that, “you have not taken responsibility for what you did, and what you did was a felony."
Staskal also called Runge "arrogant and defiant.”
Runge, now 47, claimed in her appeal that a guilty plea inherently means that she has accepted responsibility and demonstrated remorse.
The appeals court rejected all of Runge’s arguments.
"The judge chose to sentence her on these clearly articulated reasons and grounds, which we find are not clearly untenable or unreasonable," the appeals court said.
Runge was sentenced by Staskal in May 2011.