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A Kansas prosecutor who dropped a long list of criminal abortion charges filed against Planned Parenthood – after the charges originally were vetted by three judges – now is named in a formal ethics complaint over the case.
Officials with Operation Rescue say in their complaint that Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe misrepresented the facts of the case, made false statements about the evidentiary records being destroyed and misled the residents of Kansas about the controlling precedents in the case.
“During the incompetent prosecution of [Planned Parenthood], Howe committed misconduct when he perjured himself in his statements to Judge Tatum that indicated all the copies he needed to authenticate his evidence had been destroyed,” the complaint alleges. “His entire representation of the lack of evidence or controlling authorities in this case was fraudulent. His deceptive claims in court concerning the evidence and the controlling authorities thwarted justice. Because of this, he is not fit for the continued practice of law,” said the complaint.
The 107 criminal counts against Planned Parenthood in Overland Park, Kan., originally were filed in 2007 by Howe’s predecessor, Phill Kline, after years of investigations.
The new complaint relates to some 49 of the counts that Howe sought to have dismissed late last year. The last of the charges were dismissed just weeks ago.
The counts were dismissed in November 2011 based on Howe’s statements that some evidence needed to prosecute the case had been destroyed.
But Operation Rescue said it discovered documentation from Judge Richard Anderson through open records requests that proves Howe lied to Judge Steven Tatum on November 9, 2011, “when he said that the ‘last complete copy’ of evidence that Planned Parenthood forged documents to cover crimes had been destroyed.”
“That evidence made such a strong case against Planned Parenthood that three Kansas judges ruled there was probable cause to believe Planned Parenthood committed crimes,” the organization said.
“It is critically important to preserve the record while this ethics case is under investigation. Because of that we are asking for the disciplinary administrator to seek an immediate protective order to prevent Planned Parenthood from retrieving the evidence against them and destroying it,” said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, which filed the complaint against Howe.
Operation Rescue alleges:
- Howe lied to Tatum concerning destruction of the evidence against Planned Parenthood when the record was clear that Anderson maintained pristine copies of the evidence. This fraudulent claim resulted in the dismissal of 49 of the most serious charges.
- Howe failed to disclose proper case law that allows the tolling of the statute of limitations in cases where deception is present. Howe claimed there was no evidence that would allow the statute of limitations to be tolled. This misrepresentation resulted in the dismissal of 26 charges on August 3, 2012.
- Howe misrepresented facts when he stated in his August 17, 2012, press release that, “The United States Supreme Court has said that reasonable medical debate should not subject individuals to criminal prosecution.” Howe concealed the fact that the true controlling authority on this legal topic is Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), which states in part: “Medical uncertainty does not foreclose the exercise of legislative power in the abortion context any more than it does in other contexts.” This misrepresentation resulted in the dismissal of the final 32 charges on August, 17, 2012.
- During his negligent prosecution of Planned Parenthood, Howe’s conduct was “prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
“We again call on Howe to resign and spare the people of Kansas the disgrace of a messy ethics case against a sitting district attorney,” said Sullenger. “There is more than enough evidence that Howe was working with Planned Parenthood to dismantle Kline’s case and obstruct the administration of justice. Howe’s personal vendetta against Kline, who once fired Howe, has impaired his professional judgment and made him unfit for public office.”
A spokeswoman in Howe’s office told WND he would have no comment.
But the complaint seeks discipline “up to and including disbarment for his acts of professional misconduct, blatant lying to the court, failing to competently prosecute a case that justice itself demanded should be prosecuted, and other violations alleged in this complaint.”
WND earlier reported how Operation Rescue officials uncovered records of documentation that supposedly was “destroyed” earlier by the state.
The counts against Planned Parenthood, which if convicted could have faced the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, allege it violated a state law that in 2003 limited abortions at or after the 22nd week, and also violated records requirements.
In the years since, under other attorneys general and new prosecutors, the charges gradually were removed from the court.
Then OR reported under the Kansas Open Records Act it discovered that the original documentation actually was filed with the Shawnee County Clerk of the Court by Judge Richard Anderson.
“Documents also obtained from the office of Judge Anderson indicate that there was never any formal inquiry about the records from the Planned Parenthood case prosecutor, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, or from Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who was tasked in November 2011 with determining who was responsible for the destruction of the supposed final copy of the records that were the basis for 49 out of 107 total criminal charges against Planned Parenthood, including 28 felonies,” Operation Rescue reported.
That would mean those officials who last winter said the records had been destroyed apparently never even looked for them.
“This is evidence that proves the 49 charges dismissed in November 2011 at the request of Howe were dropped under false pretenses two months before Anderson moved and sealed the remaining records. It further indicates the possibility the dismissal was the result of a widespread criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice,” OR reported.
Operation Rescue has contended that the records reveal wrongdoing because they do not match. The allegation is that Planned Parenthood failed to keep the proper records, then tried to manufacture them and insert them into the files after the fact.
“This was strong evidence that Planned Parenthood created the records at a later date and put them into the patient file to make it look like they had been there all along since it is a misdemeanor not to keep a copy of the KDHE form in the patient’s file. In doing so, those records could prove that Planned Parenthood committed a felony to cover up for a misdemeanor,” Operation Rescue said.