Archive for the ‘Anderson, Mike’ Category

The Trial of Dr. Toshiki Itoh

itohAssistant professor Toshiki Itoh, 47, of the UI pathology department went to trial this week for one charge of sexual assault in the third degree and two counts of physical assault causing bodily injury against his female lab assistant. Itoh has pled not guilty. He has been on paid administrative leave for the last two years with a salary of $93,000, according to Tom Moore, UI Media Relations Coordinator. His attorney, Patricia C. Kamath, has declined comment.

The lab assistant said that Itoh had beaten and sexually assaulted her for the last year and a half, according to the UI police report. Two particular incidents prompted her call on July 10, 2008. She claimed that Itoh beat her on July 8 when she reported the misuse of a lab microscope. She missed work on July 9 because of her injuries and when she reported to work on July 10, Itoh repeatedly punched her in the face with a closed fist for being absent the previous day. She also alleged that Itoh had been sexually assaulting her since January 1, 2007.

Itoh got his M.D and P.hD at Kumamoto University School of Medicine in Japan. He moved to California on a green card in 1999, where he did research at UC Berkeley until 2005, when he moved to Iowa City. Since then, he’s done research in the pathology department as an assistant professor. His name is still listed on the UI directory, his webpage still up with no indication of his leave status.

The trial began on Monday with jury selection. Since then the court has reconvened every day at 9am this week, with each gathering lasting until 4:30 in the afternoon.


Dr. Toshiki Itoh admitted he assaulted his female lab assistant during an audio-recorded police interview, a portion of which was played in court on Wednesday morning.

The interview that Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Beglin played in court was conducted on July 10 2008 in a med lab at the UI pathology department. UI police detectives Brian Meyer and Terry Bringman testified that they asked Itoh questions about whether or not he had physically assaulted his lab assistant.

“That actually [inaudible] and then actually that, I hit her several times, I told you,” Itoh replied to Meyer and Bringman in broken English.

Itoh is a Japanese foreign national who has moderate English comprehension, according to court documents. An interpreter appointed by the UI provost’s office was present during that interview so as to avoid language difficulties. But detectives Meyer and Bringman recalled in their testimony that Itoh rarely referred to the interpreter, and did not seem to need help answering their questions.

“We felt that he understood everything,” Bringman testified.

In another interview that took place on July 15 at the UI police department, Itoh again admitted to physically assaulting his lab assistant.

“He admitted to hitting her several times, breaking her glasses,” Bringman said, referring to the assault that occurred on July 8, “He demonstrated whacking her. Hitting her. I believe at one point he threw her into a wall.”

The lab assistant speaks

At approximately 2:10pm on Wednesday, Beglin called the alleged victim to the stand. She arrived in the courtroom, eyes wide, her nervous breathing audible over the microphone. After a brief conference with the judge and her interpreter, her testimony began.

The lab assistant, who is a Japanese foreign national in the U.S. on a visa, described her duties as Itoh’s lab assistant from 2006 to 2008.

In broken English, she said that Itoh made her work long hours, sometimes more than 40 hours a week, into the night, and through the weekend. During her time of employment in his lab, she had virtually no social life outside of work, saying that she simply had too much work to do. Itoh threatened to fire her on several occasions, and was often critical of her work. He would sometimes express himself in a normal tone of voice, but according to the lab assistant, would more often yell at her. Sometimes he would respond with violence.

“Sometimes he slap. Sometimes he hit my face. Sometimes he kick me,” the alleged vicitm said in court on Wednesday.

Itoh’s jaws were clenched while the alleged victim made these statements, and he would occasionally lean forward in his chair over a yellow legal pad, rapidly taking down notes.

July 8 2008

The lab assistant then described in vivid detail the assault that occurred on July 8. She claimed that Itoh struck her in the face after she reported the misuse of a lab microscope by a fellow employee.

The alleged victim claimed that before he hit her, Itoh said, “ You are not a good employee. You have no right to criticize.”

He then punched her in the face several times, the alleged victim said. She raised her hands to try to protect her face, but he managed to break her glasses, the lab assistant said.

“He used fist, not open hand,” she said.

After the physical assault, Itoh left the lab and went into his adjacent office.  She followed him into his office, where Itoh sexually assaulted her, the lab assistant testified.

“He put his hand under my shirt and brassiere and touched my breasts,” the lab assistant said.

Itoh left the office shortly after that, and she went home with a severe headache. She came into work in the morning the next day to help a student assistant with daily duties, but went home shortly after that to recover from her injuries.  She did not return to work until July 10.

July 10 2008

The lab assistant arrived at work on July 10 and began work on an ongoing experiment, she testified. Itoh arrived at the lab later, and began to hit her with his closed hand.

“Your attitude is ridiculous,” is what the lab assistant testified Itoh said to her on that occasion.

She left the lab and fled to med lab 1022, where she called the UI police on a non-emergency number.

“I didn’t want to disturb anyone,” she said.

Up to this point, she had not told anyone about the repeated instances of sexual and physical assault. She testified that she didn’t want to put her friends in a difficult situation and she was concerned at how her family would react to the news. She also didn’t want to lose her job.

The lab assistant is working in the states on an H1-b visa. According to her, the visa requires that she remain employed in a specific professional field during the duration of her stay in the states. Itoh was the sponsor of her visa, according to the testimony of University Healthcare physician Mark Graber on Tuesday.

So when Beglin asked the lab assistant why she didn’t contact the university sooner, she replied, “I chose police because I didn’t trust the university.”

She went on to say that the university invests a lot of money in professors and she was worried that she would lose her job.

“University doesn’t want to fire the professor. University wants to fire the employee,” she said, “Even now I don’t want to report to the university.” contacted UI Media Relations Spokesperson Tom Moore at his home Wednesday night for a comment on these last remarks. Moore declined comment.




International Writing Program Reading

“Every public appearance of my work feels like giving birth to a child.” –Farhad Sulliman Khoyratty, before beginning his reading.
“I don’t believe in truth with a capital T. I believe in smaller, more subjective truths.” –Farhad
Sitting in the back row. Fumes of various perfumes wafting around, people dressed in their finest literary garb, pleated skirts, leather oxfords, wool cardigans, and glasses with the little loops on the stems.
Farhad begins reading, a letter from a son to his mother, a story about a man who thinks all things find in him their originating causes.
A quiet atmosphere pervades, the hiss of the espresso machines coming muffled from the coffee shop in back. Members of the literary community sit slouched in their chairs, smiling as familiar faces come and go, clasping each other’s hands in silent tender recognition. Farhad reads steadily on, earnest orator, a sensitive and introspective writer.
The plane crashes, the son feels his soul leaving his body in midair. Someone’s cell phone rings, a bad pop song, autotuned vocals. Man gets up, steps behind a shelf and says audibly “Hello?” Farhad’s reading quickens, gets louder.
“How does one link all the words? Which the shade and which the light?”–Farhad (I just like that line I guess)
Farhad’s writing ends. Speaker wishes all the writer’s safe flights back home, safer than the one in Farhad’s story. Muffled laughter.
Rachel Yoder of the UI non-fiction writer’s worksop. Her reading is an essay about her experiences growing up in a Mennonite community in Ohio.
Very rich prose. “something chemical and dark…” I like.
Describes her home very eloquently. The idealism of her parents. One day her dad suffocated some cicadas and cooked them in the oven, asked her if she wanted to eat some with him. Dad and mom ate them with honey, said they were nutty.
Angry, biter storytelling, traces of teenage angst, of a girl wanting to escape the craziness of her backwards upbringing.
Describes her discovery of boys and youthful passions, Rage Against the Machines, then in agonizing detail, the preparation of a meal in her family’s Mennonite homestead. The contrast is stark, the choice clear.
Next up, Ian Rosales Casacot from the Philippines. “All of the members of the IWP seem to be bent on finishing a literary project while they are here in Iowa City.”–Ian.
Begins a story, a sunset in Chicago, a corner in Macy’s, a starbucks, the dull roar of the L train. Mmm. I am transported…I miss Chicago!
Mentions Palatine. I drove through there with my dad when I was learning to drive. Drove into an intersection and almost got sideswiped, my dad shrieking in terror. Enough time has passed now for me to look back and laugh.
Jesus, he’s describing my usual walking route through downtown Chicago, along Wabash ave! I can damn near see the street and the window cleaners, the scaffolds over the sidewalks!
End of transmission for now. All good readers. Rachel Yoder was my favorite.
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Ahmadinejad Riles UN with 9/11 Slur

During a speech today, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad characterized the terrorist  incident on 9/11 as part of a US conspiracy to protect its intersts in Israel , causing some UN representatives to leave the chambers in protest.

In writing a localized take on this particular story, I’d be interestd to see what comments Kelly M. Kadera, Associate Professor in the UI political sciences department would have to offer. I located Kadera on the UI political science web page. The site indicates that she has written extensively on the subject of war, most noteworthy perhaps being her article  Conflict Management and Peace Science. Ahmadinejad’s comments have caused concern about the feasability of a peaceful solution to the various conflicts raging in the Middle East. Kadera’s expertise on “conflict managment” and “peace science” may give the UI an unique take on the situation.

Another local expert it might be worth talking to is Brian Lai , another Associate Professor in the UI politial sciences department. His expertise is on terrorism in the Middle East, an area of study whose relevance is readily apparent in this particular case. He would be useful in discussing the mindset of terrorists in the Middle East, and perhaps in parsing the motivations behind Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory rhetoric. I found this professor in a simple google search.

Matt Heflin

Matt Heflin is a psychiatric nursing assistant at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. I used to work with him at the info desk at the hospital, where he worked for several months as a student. He has experienced a lot in his job at the psych clinic and knows how to weave those experiences into fascinating stories.

Heflin has a tattoo that reads “We the People” in parchment script that stretches across his torso. He actually appeared in an Off Deadline story about the tattoo parlor where he got this interesting piece of body art.  On a personal note, he’s an outgoing character with strong political views, usually tending towards the liberal persuasion. I know this from having spent some time previous to my interview. However much of my interest lies withing the scope of his current occupation, and tt is difficult to perform a webbased bacground search in this area, as none of it has been  previousl publicize. Furthermore, the information about his work in the UIHC is largely restricted by HIPAA laws, so there is very little out there pertaining to the actual events within the Thought Disorders unit. Much of the personal anecdotes will come form my interview.

Nonetheless, information can be gathered on this subject online, though not as directly as in other casess. Job descriptions for psychiatric nursing assistants can be found, detailing the responsibilities and in-job nuances of dealing with patients who suffer from psychological illnesses on a day to to day basis. These responsibilities can be as intimate as performing restraint to prevent bodily harm against others or themselves, and as rudimentary as simply watching TV with these patients or talking with them about their lives. Reading up on the duties of this emotionally and physically taxing occupation is an invaluable source of information about the daily trials undergone in such a confusing and–pardon the term–manic working environment. 

Again, few personal anecdotes from any nursing assitant are likley to show up online, but futher background can be gathered on blogs. This particular blog offers localized information about psychiatric nursing assistant jobs, the training involved, and the salary that can be expected. Again, not much in way of in-field detail, but valuable nonetheless.

It might be useful to  gain the perspective of the patients in these types of clinics. To do so I would consult  a message board where the thoughts or complaints of previous or current patients can be addressed.  This could provide avenues of questioning during the interview. If the complaint of mistreatment is common in psych clinics, I could ask a question about whether or not Heflin has witnessed or even administered treatment that could be considered cruel or unusual.

I chose these links quite frankly out of an absence of other relevant data available. These were the most directly informative about the topic at hand, offering a glimpse into the mechanics of working in a thought disorders clinic. Knowing this before stopping into an interview provides a foundation on which to build my questioning.

Working Through Confusion

The Code Green

Matt Heflin was making the rounds down the corridor, enjoying a quick chat with his co-worker when a large bearded man began screaming at the end of the hall.

“I’ve gotta hit somebody!” the man shouted, lunging down the hall towards Heflin. With a practiced calm, Heflin’s co-worker deftly side-stepped the charging giant, grabbed him into a head-lock, and threw him to the ground. After a brief struggle, the man calmed down and Heflin was able to fit him with a set of velcro restraints.

This is what Heflin and the rest of the PNAs up in 2JPW, the Thought Disorders unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, call a Code Green.

“Code Green’s are the biggest cluster fucks of all time,” Heflin said, “Fifteen chiefs and no Indian. Everyone wants to be in charge and no one wants to listen.” Heflin admits that this particular Code Green wasn’t exactly by the book. When a patient threatens physical harm, a PNA (psychiatric nursing assistant) is trained to neutralize the situation with several conflict defusing techniques. Headlocks and takedowns aren’t exactly part of the repertoire, but they happen all the time. Heflin demonstrated one of the techniques in the living room of his cousin Megan’s apartment. Heflin, tall and lanky, wearing grubby gray work pants and a green American Eagle polo, stood up straight with a grin on his face to show all in attendance how to handle a patient who has aimed a kick at your shin.

Keeping the Peace

“I could get in so much trouble for showing you this,” he said, standing with his back straight, his feet locked, hands balled into fists. The invisible attacker charged across the room and aimed an invisible kick toward Heflin’s right shin. Instead of blocking the insubstantial blow with a graceful chop of his forearm, Heflin shot his knee up to his chest, a jerky gesture reminiscent of the first move in some sort of goose-stepping parade. With a pivot, he pumped his foot back to the ground, turned, and marched straight out of the room, away from the invisible attacker. A successful dodge and disengage.

Heflin’s training is designed to minimize conflict and keep people safe in a potentially volatile environment. Every day he works in close proximity with a grab bag of patients who range from depressed to schizophrenic. Most of them have drug problems. At any given time, Heflin says, the unit has one or two star patients, patients whose neuroses are particularly severe. He recalled one patient who stuck out his own eye during Heflin’s shift. “Just took his finger and jammed it in,” Hefflin said. The PNAs had to restrain him so he wouldn’t stick out his other eye.

This is Heflin’s job, to intervene on the behalf of individuals who are unable to do so for themselves. He used to work in a shampoo factory, putting bottles into boxes. His current job required a weeklong training course in which he was taught CPR and made to watch sessions of electric shock therapy. Naturally, when he made the transition to working at the Thought Disorders unit during his junior year of college, he was a little nervous. “I have a lot more responsibility now,” Heflin said, “I mess up here, I break someone’s neck.”

Origin Story

Oddly enough, Heflin’s parents met in the same Thought Disorders unit that he works in today. His younger brother Travis also works with him, as do most of his aunts. When the family gets together for dinner, they spend the evening trying to outdo each other’s stories about their experiences on the unit, who did a one-on-one with the craziest patient, who got attacked by who and their best guesses as to why. It might seem insensitive, but in a family of PNAs it’s important to maintain a sense of humor about what can be a very stressful and emotionally taxing job.

Heflin and his mother, who transferred to the OR due to work related stress, share a story that’s hard to top. One day, one of the borderline personality patients approached Heflin’s mother and kicked her in the stomach. Heflin’s mother was pregnant with him at the time. To this day, the same borderline woman makes appearances in the unit, making her what Heflin and his co-workers call a frequent flier.  She is unaware that Heflin is the son of the PNA she kicked all those years ago. When he passes her in the hall, he can’t help but think that this woman could have ended his life before it even began.

Heflin walks among these emotionally disturbed individuals every day. His job requires him to be aware of changes in their medications and how that might change their behavior, try to empathize with them, remain a source of calm at their most violent. Not all of them interact with the world in conventional ways, so it’s important to remain alert, adaptable, and sensitive to their emotions. He doesn’t understand it all but Heflin says it’s important to remain respectful.

“You gotta learn to act like a kid,” Heflin said. Just listen, ask questions, nod, and try not be preachy. But it’s also important to be careful. “There’s definitely a professional distance you have to keep,” he said, waving his hand in front of his face, “You can’t bring it home with you.”