Former Kansas City Councilman Michael Brooks will face no criminal charge concerning an accusation that he had assaulted his council aide, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd announced Thursday.
Zahnd said his office could not prove a crime took place in connection with Tonia Titus’ claim that Brooks had choked her in his 22nd floor council office on Nov. 4.
“We have determined there was not sufficient evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Zahnd said. “It does not necessarily mean nothing happened. It does not necessarily mean that I do not believe what the alleged victim said.”
Brooks, senior pastor of Zion Grove Baptist Church, submitted his resignation from the City Council in December. But he adamantly denied Titus’ allegation of any wrongdoing at his City Hall office. Titus filed a report with Kansas City police on Nov. 9 and was moved to a different job with the city.
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The police investigation was turned over to Zahnd after Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her office had a conflict of interest because one of her assistant prosecuting attorneys was running for Brooks’ council seat.
Zahnd described the allegation as “he said, she said,” in which no other witnesses could corroborate what happened. He said accounts of the incident differed and Brooks denied putting his hands on the alleged victim.
If probable cause had been found, the charge would have been a misdemeanor, he said.
Titus’ attorney, Athena Dickson, said this has been a “very trying time for Ms. Titus that has had a deep and lasting impact on her physically and emotionally.” She said her client was still processing the special prosecutor’s decision and would have no comment at this time.
Zahnd said Titus described her relationship with Brooks as an intimate or romantic one that ended when she became employed as Brooks’ aide.
But Brooks denied any such relationship to authorities, and his attorney, John Picerno, said after Thursday’s press conference that he knew of nothing but a professional relationship between Brooks and Titus.
Commenting for Brooks, Picerno said his client was greatly relieved by the prosecutor’s decision but regretted the ordeal he had endured.
“I think from his point of view it’s a shame that accusations are treated as if they’re evidence,” Picerno said. “It’s sad that a public official is treated as guilty from the beginning when in fact they should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.”
Picerno said Brooks is now working full-time for his church “and moving on with his life. He’s glad to have this behind him, for sure.”
Zahnd said his decision doesn’t mean he disbelieved Titus’ account, but he didn’t disbelieve Brooks either.
When Brooks submitted his resignation from office in mid-December, he said through Picerno that Titus’ account of an assault in the City Hall office never happened. Instead, he said he had informed her on Nov. 4 that he would be replacing her soon as his legislative aide due to poor job performance, and she became upset.
Titus admitted to investigators that Brooks had expressed concerns about her job performance, Zahnd said.
Although Picerno said in December that the allegation was baseless, he also said that Brooks had concluded that it was a good time to resign because he had been subjected to a “media circus,” and he didn’t intend to seek re-election in the city council primary this April.
Brooks’ tenure on the City Council was fraught with controversy. In 2012, he requested from the city manager a $15,000 payment for a boxing event that never occurred and that the event organizers, who received the money, never paid back. And in August 2013, he apologized to his council colleagues for the “terrible mistake” of sending sexually charged online messages to a woman who was not his wife. Picerno said at that time that Brooks never met the woman in person and there was no impropriety.