State officials investigating ethics complaint against Kan. AG

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 9, 2012, 12:00pm



TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline) - State officials say they are investigating ethics complaints filed by an anti-abortion group against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

In two separate letters to Operation Rescue Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger dated Sept. 24, state Disciplinary Administrator Stanton A. Hazlett informed the group that its letters of complaint have been "docketed" and its allegations "will be investigated."

The complaints, filed by Sullenger, involve allegations of professional misconduct -- including lying to a district court judge -- that resulted in the fraudulent dismissal of 107 criminal charges against Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.

That Planned Parenthood had been charged with illegal late-term abortions and manufacturing evidence to cover crimes by former state attorney general and prosecutor Phill Kline in 2007. The last of the charges were dismissed in August.

As for Kline, a panel for the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys recommended last October that he should have his state law license suspended indefinitely.

The three-member panel pointed to his actions during investigations of abortion providers.

Kline alleged illegal late-term abortions were being done at the Overland Park Planned Parenthood clinic and at an abortion provider in Wichita. He also alleged failure to report abuse at the two clinics.

However, the panel said Kline misled other officials to further investigations of the abortion providers.

The Kansas Supreme Court is now tasked with deciding whether Kline will face sanctions.

In May, five of the Court's justices -- Carol Beier, Lee Johnson, Marla Luckert, Eric Rosen and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss -- recused themselves from the disciplinary case.

Five judges will be appointed to hear the case in their places. A hearing was not expected to take place before the fall.

According to Operation Rescue, Sullenger received documentation through an open records act request from Shawnee County Judge Richard Anderson, which proved that evidence Howe and Schmidt said was destroyed actually still existed months after Howe persuaded District Court Judge Stephen Tatum to drop the most serious charges against Planned Parenthood under false pretenses.

Records that Sullenger submitted with her ethics complaints show that Howe and Schmidt knew Anderson maintained possession of the evidence at the time of their deception.

"We understand that prosecutors have wide authority to determine what cases will be prosecuted, but they do not have the authority to lie to a judge and deceive the public in order to destroy a prosecution, and that is exactly what Schmidt and Howe did," Sullenger said in a statement Monday.

Operation Rescue is calling for both Schmidt and Howe to resign, saying they are "not fit to serve."

"We caught them red-handed engaging in professional misconduct and have the documents to prove it," Sullenger said.

"Right now there is no confidence that our current abortion laws with be enforced. If Schmidt and Howe would go to these lengths to destroy a strong case against Planned Parenthood in which three Kansas judges have ruled probable cause exists to believe crimes were committed, they certainly won't enforce any other abortion law, leaving the lives of women at risk."

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