This story was originally published May 5, 2005
Gregory Breeden, freed hours earlier by a jury in Jefferson City, stepped off a bus in Kansas City on Wednesday evening and told reporters he’s ready to be left alone.
The man who once was a suspect in a string of grisly murders in Kansas City and was tried twice on a charge of threatening a federal judge wore a rumpled maroon blazer and tie. He carried a brown grocery sack, a manila envelope stuffed with documents and a Subway bag.
He told reporters that his court battles and time in prison had left him penniless. “Most of my worldly worth is gone at this point,” he said.
He said he did not plan to remain in Kansas City long.
“In six months I probably won’t be in Missouri,” he said.
Curious onlookers gathered, attracted by the clutch of TV cameras and reporters. One woman, hearing his story, reached into her shirt and gave him money.
Another shouted at him, warning him to get right with God.
“I got God,” Breeden told her. “He’s how I beat the federal government. “
Earlier in the day a jury in Jefferson City had deliberated about 90 minutes before delivering its not guilty verdict. The decision came six days after a mistrial was declared when another jury deadlocked after 14 hours of deliberation.
Breeden served 10 years on a bad-check offense. On the day of his release from prison in November, he was arrested and charged with threatening a judge and lying to the FBI.
He reacted calmly to Wednesday’s verdict.
“I knew I would be found not guilty,” he said a few minutes after it was read. Breeden said the jury realized that secretly recorded remarks he made to another inmate about incapacitating federal Magistrate William Knox were not serious intentions.
In the mid-1990s, Breeden was investigated in the deaths of seven women whose bodies had been found in the Missouri River. Some of the women were prostitutes, and some of their bodies were mutilated, police said at the time.
In 1996, Breeden was charged with killing Viola McCoy, but the charge was dropped when a witness wouldn’t testify.
Kansas City police said Wednesday that the investigation of the women’s deaths is still open.
Breeden said that he had no involvement in the deaths.
“I’ve had a lot of publicity about something I didn’t do,” Breeden said.
Jurors in Breeden’s trial this week and last week were not told of his background. During the selection process, none of them said they knew of him.
The jury heard two days of testimony this week alleging that Breeden threatened Knox for recommending that Breeden’s lawsuit against the state and the Tipton Correctional Center - where he was held - be tossed out by another judge.
The alleged threats were made in conversations Breeden had last August with Neldon Neal, a fellow inmate at Tipton who agreed to wear a tape recorder for the FBI. Neal had earlier reported to authorities that Breeden threatened Knox, who is based in Jefferson City.
Breeden’s public defender, David Mercer, vigorously argued that Breeden had no intent to hurt Knox and was mainly interested in fighting him in court.
“Mr. Breeden is not the first person who has said a bad thing about some judge,” Mercer said. In his closing argument, prosecutor Larry Miller zeroed in on the difference between physical threats and Breeden’s expressed intent to fight Knox in court.
“Just because he uses the court doesn’t mean he can’t make a threat,” Miller said. “You can threaten someone and still sue them. “
After the verdict, juror Adrian Greenburg said jurors thought Breeden said things”in a heated moment” that he did not mean to carry out.
In the first trial, the jury acquitted Breeden on a separate charge of lying to the FBI when an agent interviewed him on Sept. 21 about whether he had ever threatened the judge and three Tipton prison officials.
That jury heard Breeden tell Neal on the tape that Breeden could harm three female employees at Tipton, whom he blamed for keeping him in jail.
The second jury heard no testimony on Breeden’s comments about the women, because the earlier jury acquitted Breeden of lying to the FBI about threatening the women. Without that count, evidence of those threats was irrelevant, trial Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled.
Breeden said the second jury found it easier to decide his case once the alleged threats against the women were not allowed.
U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said Laughrey’s decision not to allow the testimony was crucial.
“We are disappointed with the verdict and we are disappointed that, unlike in the first trial, Judge Laughrey did not permit the government to introduce evidence of threats Breeden made against Department of Corrections employees,” Graves said through a spokesman. “We will continue to do everything in our power to protect judges and other court personnel from threats of violence. “
Kansas City Police Capt. Rich Lockhart declined to comment on the Breeden verdict but said the investigations to which he was linked 10 years ago remain open.
“We are still interested in those open homicide investigations involving the women whose bodies were found in the Missouri River,” Lockhart said. “We would like anyone with any information to call the TIPS Hotline. “
The number is (816) 474-TIPS (474-8477).
After Breeden’s acquittal, the trial judge authorized a U.S. marshal to drive Breeden to Columbia and buy him a $25.77 ticket to Kansas City. He received no other money.
“I don’t have a penny in my pocket and no ID,” Breeden said before leaving for Kansas City. “That’s a tough situation to be in. I’m not sure what lies ahead of me at this point. “
Breeden also got a rough early exposure to life on the outside when a woman verbally accosted him about his past while he stood in line for the bus in a parking lot in Columbia. The same woman yelled at him again as he talked to reporters in Kansas City.
Breeden said he expected to be in Kansas City for only a short time and would then leave to pursue business ventures.
Breeden said he is convinced he will win a multimillion-dollar settlement from the state of Missouri for keeping him in prison so long on a bad-check charge. Breeden said he also plans to take action against the federal government for”malicious prosecution. “
Breeden said he wants to buy a motor home and leave the state. He said no one had anything to fear.
“I’m going into the woodwork,” Breeden said. “I really don’t want to be bothered for quite some time. “
Reporters Mark Morris and James Hart contributed to this report.