Local News Spotlight

Anti-abortion group files ethics complaint against Johnson County DA

Updated: 2012-09-05T06:51:41Z

By BRAD COOPER

The Kansas City Star

The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue on Tuesday lodged an ethics complaint against Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, alleging that he lied to a judge about key documents being destroyed in a criminal case against Planned Parenthood.

The group accused Howe of lying when he told a judge that documents needed to make the case against Planned Parenthood were destroyed, leading to the unraveling of the case against the Overland Park-based abortion provider.

The case against Planned Parenthood was started by Phill Kline as attorney general in 2003 and continued through his two years as Johnson County district attorney.

Operation Rescue contends that copies of records needed for the Planned Parenthood case where kept by a Topeka judge, who oversaw Kline’s abortion investigation.

“Howe’s representation that the ‘last complete copy’ of evidence had been destroyed was patently false, and he was aware of it when he said it,” according to a copy of Operation Rescue’s complaint filed with the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator, which investigates misconduct complaints against lawyers in Kansas.

Howe couldn’t be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The same office investigated an ethics complaint against Kline for his role in the case, and a different panel of lawyers recommended he be indefinitely suspended from practicing law in Kansas.

At issue in the latest ethics complaint are reports that Planned Parenthood must file for each abortion. Planned Parenthood keeps one copy in the patient’s file and sends another to state health officials.

Prosecutors contended Planned Parenthood had not kept copies of the records for five years, as required by law, and committed a felony by recreating them when they were requested.

Prosecutors wanted to prove that the records of abortions performed in 2003, which Kline obtained, were the same as those that had been filed with the state and different from the copies Planned Parenthood later provided.

The mysterious destruction of the records — one set kept by the state health department and another said to be kept by former Attorney General Steve Six — helped undo the 107-count case against Planned Parenthood.

Howe said he decided last month to drop the last 32 charges against Planned Parenthood after concluding that prosecutors couldn’t meet their burden of proof in the case.

To reach Brad Cooper, call 816-234-7724 or send email to bcooper@kcstar.com.

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