Saucy testimony in Dubuque pawn shop owner bond review - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dramatic testimony in Dubuque pawn shop case

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Mike Vandermillen appeared in court Thursday for his bond review hearing Mike Vandermillen appeared in court Thursday for his bond review hearing
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A Dubuque pawn shop owner charged with four felonies and two misdemeanors appeared in court Thursday morning for a bond review hearing.

39-year-old Mike Vandermillen faces charges for ongoing criminal activity.

The bond review hearing was unusually long, at nearly three hours and with attorneys calling a total of eight people to testify. Vandermillen's attorney Phil Jensen argued the current $500,000 cash bond is unreasonable. Prosecuting attorney Chris Corken said it should stay where it is.

"The Eighth Amendment says, 'excessive bail shall not be required,'" Jensen said, arguing Vandermillen can't afford to post bond. "It's excessive and it's wrong for him to be in here simply because of his economic status."

Vandermillen faces charges that encompass ongoing criminal activity. That includes alleged theft, firearm possession by felon, drug-related activity, assault and involvement in prostitution.

Jensen called Vandermillen's wife, Nicole Vandermillen, to attest to her husband's character.

"He provides for the son that he adopted. Is that right?" Jensen asked Ms. Vandermillen, who started tearing up on the stand as she nodded affirmatively to his questions. "And is actively involved in his other children. Is that right?"

Ms. Vandermillen said is not employed. Jensen also called to the stand a man who formerly employed Mike Vandermillen at his snow removal and lawn-cutting company. The man pledged to hire Vandermillen again if his former employee were able to post bond.

Soon, Vandermillen himself took the stand. This previously-convicted felon argued he has helped law enforcement in the past by reporting some stolen items brought to his shop, Dubuque Pawn.

"My pawn shop has been open the least of all pawn shops, but yet I've turned in more stolen property in one year than all of them put together, so does that make me the most criminal pawn shop or does that make me the most honest one? I guess it depends how you look at it, doesn't it?" he said challengingly.

Corken said there's no fear Vandermillen would disappear if he's out of jail on a lower bond but that his influence and friends present a threat to witnesses in the case.

"When we have witnesses that are asking for relocation, when we have witnesses that have to be moved from spot to spot in the jail, that is of concern to the state," she said. "We have an integrity of a process to maintain here."

"He will not contact witnesses," Vandermillen's attorney said.

Corken called a total of four law enforcement officers to the stand. Jensen raised the point the police had reasons months ago, even years ago, to believe Vandermillen had committed crimes but didn't take him off the street.

"Yes, we did some things to take him off the streets. We built a case," Dubuque Police Department's investigator Jeff Tupper said on the stand. "It's not like watching TV. We don't solve crimes in 24 hours. Major cases - particularly cases like this - can take years to come through."

Ultimately, both sides argued for the integrity of the system, but they drew different conclusions.

Jensen argued judge Monica Ackley reduce Vandermillen's bond.

On the other hand, Corken fought to ensure Vandermillen's alleged crime ring not have its leader back in the community.

"We can't seem to shut down this enterprise, even with Mr. Vandermillen locked in jail," she said.

By the end of the day, the judge was still deciding the matter.

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