Menken trial witness faces prison for perjury
January 31, 2014
The former Carroll woman who had agreed to testify against Andrew Menken in his extortion trial this week reversed her testimony five days before the trial was set to begin, which violated a plea deal in which she received a deferred judgment for her role in the extortion, Sac County Attorney Ben Smith alleged in court documents filed Thursday.
Smith seeks to revoke the deferred judgment, in which Elizabeth Aschinger, 24, now of West Des Moines, avoided a felony conviction and a possible prison sentence in exchange for her guilty plea and testimony against Menken.
Smith cut a similar deal last year with Jason Heffelmeier, 39, of Buckingham, who testified at the trial this week that he attempted to blackmail Aschinger's father-in-law for $55,555 - threatening to reveal a longtime affair between the two if he didn't pay - and enlisted the help of Menken to retrieve the money.
Menken insisted that he declined Heffelmeier's request to participate, and a jury acquitted him of a felony theft charge on Wednesday.
Aschinger made a brief appearance in a Sac City courtroom as a possible witness for Menken's defense, but ultimately, she was not called to the witness stand.
The judge who granted Aschinger a deferred judgment in September gave her a stern warning to abide by the terms of her plea agreement.
"I'm gonna give you a break here, but your full and absolute cooperation is the ... bargain," District Judge Thomas Bice said of Aschinger's promise to testify at Menken's trial. "This type of behavior will not be tolerated. It's sinister."
Aschinger admitted last year to conspiring with Menken to extort her father-in-law, Randy Aschinger, 59, of rural Lake View, but in her Jan. 22 deposition she said "she never conspired with Andrew Menken and never committed any crime," according to court documents.
Smith alleges that Elizabeth Aschinger committed felony perjury and obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor, for recanting her original story.
Smith requests that Aschinger be convicted of the felony to which she pleaded guilty last year - a crime that is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Her attorney, Robert Peterson, of Carroll, requested on Thursday to withdraw from the case, court documents show.
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