Gavel and flag - federal court ruling

SIOUX CITY—A 35-year-old former rural Hartley man was sentenced Jan. 20 to more than a year in federal prison.

Joe Edward Ripka of Spencer had pleaded guilty Aug. 1 in U.S. District Court in Sioux City to being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

He previously was convicted of failure to affix drug stamp on Oct. 23, 2017, in the Emmet County District Court in Estherville, which prohibits him from possessing a firearm.

Evidence at the plea and sentencing hearings showed that on Dec. 22, 2021, law enforcement observed a 2004 Ford F-150 pickup being driven without any license plates by Ripka on Highway 59 north of Larrabee.

During the stop, Ripka displayed signs of impairment. A K-9 was deployed on the exterior of the vehicle and indicated the presence of controlled substances from within, at which time Ripka stated there was a firearm in the vehicle and acknowledged he was a felon.

Law enforcement uncovered a loaded .380 handgun in the driver’s door.

Later, upon inspection of the deputy’s vehicle near where Ripka had been seated, the arresting deputy located a pack of cigarettes wedged between the seats that contained 1 gram of methamphetamine.

U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand sentenced Ripka to 12 months and one day in prison and a three-year term of supervised release following imprisonment.

There is no parole in the federal system.

Ripka remains in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods. PSN is the centerpiece of the U.S. Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.

Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders works together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.

As part of its strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

The case was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorney Patrick Greenwood and was investigated by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.