An attorney has been charged with helping her client, a man who was later convicted of killing a teenager, conceal a cellphone in the Jackson County Detention Center when the lawyer was working as a public defender.
Julianne Leigh Colby, 39, of Lawrence, was charged Friday with delivering or concealing illegal materials on jail premises in a case where her client, 19-year-old Ce-Antonyo D. Kennedy, was awaiting trial for murder. Prosecutors allege the cellphone charging cord could be used to strangle another inmate.
According to court records, Kennedy illegally kept a personal cellphone while he was in custody from Feb. 2 to Feb. 20 and again in April. Prosecutors said Kennedy also had a cellphone charger while he was awaiting criminal trial in the death of Alexis Kane, whose body was found Jan. 11, 2015, at the water park in the 7100 block of Longview Road.
A Jackson County jury found Kennedy guilty in May of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the 14-year-old’s slaying. Kennedy was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors say the cellphone showed that Kennedy received and sent sexually charged text messages on the illegal, contraband cellphone. Several of the text messages came from or were sent to Colby, who was a member of his legal defense team in the murder case.
Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri Public Defender office, said Colby no longer works for the agency.
Authorities said Colby knew that it was illegal to text Kennedy on a cellphone, and that she would have known it was contraband while he was in jail custody.
The court records included the contents of text messages allegedly shared between Kennedy and Colby:
Kennedy: “So your at your sexual peak, meaning this is a time in your like where you’re the most freakiest?”
Colby: “No, I am an exception. I’ve always been in a sexual peak and I’m Asian so I’ve always been a freak!”
Kennedy: “Freaky enough to give it to me in a jail visitation room? Lol”
Colby: “That’s not being freaky, that’s gambling! Lol”
Kennedy: “What if a room existed that had no cameras or guards watching?”
Colby: “Just so you know, it has nothing to do with not wanting to be with you. But if I got caught, I could lose my job, my law license, and my social work license. I just couldn’t take that risk.”
Jail staff said they occasionally saw what they thought was inappropriate behavior between Kennedy and Colby when she visited him in April, according to the charges.
A corrections officer said that Colby appeared to be very clingy with Kennedy and at times to be standing very close to him and to have touched his leg.
Another corrections officer said during a later visit, the charges allege, Colby sat close to Kennedy while showing him her feet. It appeared that Colby touched or was rubbing Kennedy’s leg with her foot, the jailer said.
During a subsequent visit, a third corrections officer noticed Colby crying while she spoke with Kennedy. At the end of the visit, the guard reportedly saw Colby place a piece of candy directly into Kennedy’s mouth, which is a violation of jail regulations.
Later in April, the charges state, jail staff learned that Kennedy was one of several inmates who posted videos on Facebook from within the jail. Corrections officers reportedly later found a cellphone concealed inside a brown envelope while they searched Kennedy’s jail cell.
A stack of legal papers was inside the envelope with a section that appeared to be carved out to hide the cellphone. A charger for the phone was found inside a container of peanut butter, according to the court papers. Staff also found a pair of women’s underwear inside the same envelope.
Kennedy later told investigators that the cellphone did not belong to him. However, Kennedy later admitted that the cellphone cost him $600, according to the charges. The court documents also claim that Kennedy said he tore out the section of the legal paperwork to hide the cellphone. Kennedy refused to tell investigators how the cellphone got into the county jail.
Operations at the county jail have been the focus of an ongoing probe since 2015 amid allegations that jail staff had mistreated inmates.
In June, hundreds of law enforcement officers searched the county jail for more than four hours. Federal authorities later accused jail guards of accepting cash in bribes for smuggling contraband such as cellphones, cigarettes and drugs into the county jail.