The state has failed to protect the public from William Cubbage

BY ART CULLEN

We would like to tell you that chronic sexual predator William Cubbage, 87, is locked up and presents a threat to no one. We can’t. We would like to tell you that the state took every precaution before releasing Cubbage from the sex offender’s unit at Cherokee to a nursing home in Pomeroy, where he raped 95-year-old Mercedes Gottschalk. We can’t. We would like to report that Gov. Terry Branstad is determined to keep sexual predators from harming again. We can’t, because the governor shut down the state geriatric secure psych ward at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute.

And that is precisely why Cubbage had the opportunity to attack again, in January on a female worker in the showers at the Mental Health Institute in Independence. If justice prevails, William Cubbage will be locked up for the rest of his life at the Oakdale mental health unit under the Iowa Department of Corrections. The Buchanan County Attorney’s office is asking the district court for the extraordinary sentence.

It remains unclear whether the prosecutor can even press forward with the charge, given Cubbage’s incompetence (he suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease). Somehow, a judge must find a way to get Cubbage locked up and kept from the public permanently.

The system has failed so far.

Cubbage has been allowed to offend six times, at least, over the past four decades — long before Alzheimer’s. His victims have been children and women.

Cubbage had been locked up for a decade in Cherokee, where he refused to participate in treatment and was incorrigible. The Branstad Administration, relentless in cutting mental health and Medicaid expenses, found that it could shift Cubbage’s expense to the federal Medicare program if it could spring him from the state facilities. So, after a statistical analysis determined that he was “less likely” than “more likely” to reoffend, Cubbage was dumped on the Pomeroy Care Facility to prey as he would.

 And the state washed its hands of a persistent problem.

Until Cubbage attacked Gottschalk.

She sued the state and the nursing home. After she died, her estate maintained the cause. The Iowa Supreme Court is determining whether the Department of Human Services’ cavalier attitude toward a dangerous predator enjoys absolute immunity. The law would appear to be with the state unless the justices decide that they want to refine their definition of what constitutes state custody and control of a mentally ill predator.

The state clearly was negligent if not malicious in allowing Cubbage to foist himself on the frail. Somehow, it must be held to account.

But there has been nothing of the sort.

Branstad privatized the Medicaid program without consulting the legislature. Likewise he shut down two mental health institutes and the geriatric psych ward. He vetoed a bipartisan proposal that passed both the House and the Senate appropriating $100,000 to study how many predators were in nursing homes. The governor’s office ignored a long campaign by Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, to keep Cubbage safely contained.

A district court deserves to hear the Gottschalk Estate’s allegations against the state. A jury deserves to consider its blatant negligence.

A district court judge must assign Cubbage to an Iowa Department of Corrections facility in the absence of a state mental health unit for violent geriatrics. Cubbage should be on the Iowa Sex Offender’s List; the Branstad Administration delisted him.

The Iowa Legislature must reopen a geriatric psych ward for violent offenders after a study determines how many are effectively on the loose by living in nursing homes. The legislature must revive Beall’s vetoed bill.

The legislature must rise to the public defense and the defense of the indigent ill by reversing the Branstad Administration’s tragic dissolution of mental health services in Iowa. Cubbage’s horrific actions are the direct result of policy decisions and court decisions made by the State of Iowa. Only the state can answer to its own sins.

We would like to say that any one of these actions might happen. But we can’t, based on the shameful record to date.

William Cubbage remains at the unsecure Mental Health Institute in Independence, waiting and planning for his next attack.