BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Despite entering a guilty plea on March 30th to a felony drug charge, a sitting Fort Madison city councilman has said he plans to fill out his term.
Travis Seidel, who represents the 3rd Ward on the council, reached a plea agreement with the Lee County Attorney’s office in which he would plead guilty to one count of distributing narcotics within 1,000 feet of a school, a class C felony. In exchange for the plea, Lee County Attorney Ross Braden has agreed to seek a deferred judgment, which would knock the felony charge off Seidel’s permanent record after successful completion of a probationary period.
Seidel said Monday afternoon he wanted to serve out his term and possibly seek re-election in 2019.
“I’m not looking to resign,” he said. “The way things are set at this point, the punishment does have a chance to come off my record. I understand it’s an agreement and the judge can do what they see fit.”
“If everything goes well, I plan to serve out my term and look to the public and see if they are still willing for me to run. I would be willing to do it. I was going to be done because I thought eight years was enough. But what I’ve seen lately I’d be interested in running again to make sure people are getting the best council they can and the best service they can.”
Seidel declined to speak on the specifics of the arrest other than to say he doesn’t deny doing what he was charged with.
“I’ve never denied that I did something wrong. It was just such a minimal thing and I thought it could be handled as a learning lesson. I’ve certainly learned from it, I just didn’t know the legality of it all. I was just looking to help somebody out.”
He said people who know him know he goes out of his way to help people.
“People who know me know my character and that this was a mistake,” Seidel said. “A big majority of people have been doing this, but the main thing here is that this was educational for me and some random acts of kindness can be illegal and can get you into trouble. When it’s all over and I can talk about it, I want to help educate other people as well.”
“I’m hoping the judical system gives me the benefit here and know this would never happen again.”
Seidel was originally arrested Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 and charged with two counts of distributing hydromorphone, also known as Dilaudid, Hydrostat, Palladone, Dillies, and hospital heroin, within 1000 feet of a school. He posted bond and was released the same day and the charge has been working its way through the court system. Sentencing has been set for June 1, at 9 a.m.
Lee County Attorney Ross Braden, who prosecuted the case, said he was going to recommend the deferred judgment as part of the plea agreement, but said the judge has the final say at sentencing.
“Obviously, this guy is a high-profile member of the community,” Braden said. “But I hold him responsible to the same extent I would anyone else in this same position. It’s his first offense so that certainly qualifies for a deferred judgment. It’s not binding on the court and the presentence investigation report will show any criminal history, or in this case, the lack thereof.”
He said deferred judgments are typically given to youthful offenders who’ve made an isolated mistake, or observed in older offenders who’ve lived an otherwise exemplary life, and for whatever reason, made a poor decision.
Seidel is also facing up to a $1,000 civil penalty and restitution as part of the penalty of the class C felony.