A federal judge sentenced former Davenport alderman and police officer Ronald Van Fossen to one year and a day in prison Thursday on gun charges.
“I’m dealing with the stigma of being the first in my family who’s ever been arrested or gone through bankruptcy,” Van Fossen told U.S. District Judge James E. Gritzner.
Van Fossen, 67, had a .38-caliber pistol on Aug. 15, according to court records. He is prohibited from possessing firearms because of a past domestic violence conviction.
He said most of his problems stem from gambling and alcohol. His attorney, Dave Treimer, pleaded for probation.
Even former Scott County Attorney Bill Davis, who sat in on the sentencing, wrote in a letter that Van Fossen “needs no further punishment.”
But federal prosecutor Rich Westphal said Van Fossen’s criminal history over the past five years connected to his drinking alcohol makes him a danger to the community.
“Mr. Van Fossen has been through every other state court remedy besides prison,” Westphal said. “None of these remedies worked to stop him.”
Given credit for time served and other factors, Treimer said Van Fossen may serve 5 1/2 to six months in prison before being released to a halfway house.
His family declined to comment following the sentencing.
Van Fossen has been staying at the residential re-entry facility in Davenport since a judge ordered him there Jan. 25 after he admitted to drinking alcohol when he wasn’t supposed to under terms of his pretrial release from jail.
State gun charges were dropped in September after the federal charges were filed. Although he was never booked into the Scott County Jail on the state charges, a federal judge ordered him to spend a few days at the Dubuque County Jail after he refused to cooperate with police, Westphal said. He was released Sept. 23.
According to court records, Davenport police found a .38-caliber pistol Aug. 15 on the floor of a Ford F150 pickup registered to Van Fossen. Officers asked Van Fossen whether he owned the handgun, and he said he did. Police then searched his residence and found .38-caliber ammunition. He was not allowed to own a handgun because of a previous domestic violence conviction in Scott County.
He admitted to evidence Thursday that he was the fleeing driver in a hit-and-run accident the day before police found his pickup with the gun inside. He was never charged in the accident.
Gritzner said Van Fossen engaged in “deception” with law enforcement by making a false police report that his pickup had been stolen around the time of the accident.
“It’s unusual a person with your background would behave the way you did,” Gritzner said.
In 1975, Van Fossen earned the medal of valor from the Davenport Police Department. His public service career began as a Davenport firefighter when he was 21 years old. For more than 40 years in public service, he also worked for the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, the Davenport Police Department and served a term on the Davenport City Council representing the 1st Ward.
According to court records, he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and frontal temporal dementia that began in 1999.
His medical needs have been met throughout his stay at the halfway house, Treimer said, adding he hopes those needs will be met in prison.
Van Fossen is being allowed to report to prison at a later date so he can handle flooding issues at his Davenport home.
While at the halfway house, he has been given permission to leave for up to five hours a day to manage his house on Enchanted Island. If the current forecast of a crest of 19.9 feet by later next week holds, he will have 3 to 4 feet of water in his home, Treimer said.