Sunday, September 21, 2014

Court documents reveal more about Curry case, allegations

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 3/1/2013

In late September, Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry lied about unlawfully using confidential information to privately benefit himself, another or to cause harm to another, according to documents from Franklin County District Court.

The documents also indicate that in late May, Curry — who was arrested by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Wednesday on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct — misused the information and later falsely reported to law enforcement, resulting in his arrest.

In late September, Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry lied about unlawfully using confidential information to privately benefit himself, another or to cause harm to another, according to documents from Franklin County District Court.

The documents also indicate that in late May, Curry — who was arrested by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Wednesday on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct — misused the information and later falsely reported to law enforcement, resulting in his arrest.

A criminal complaint filed Wednesday by J. Todd Hiatt, a special prosecutor working on behalf of the Franklin County Attorney’s Office and the State of Kansas, stipulates that Curry cannot possess a firearm or discuss the case with any of the at least 13 endorsed witnesses. Curry’s bond initially was set at $15,000, according to the documents, but later was reduced to $3,000.

The documents also detail the criminal complaint against Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy and public information officer with the sheriff’s office. Along with Curry, the KBI arrested Fredricks Wednesday at the Franklin County Attorney’s office on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement, with bond reduced from $7,500 to $1,500. Similar to Curry, the terms of Fredricks’ bond stipulates that he cannot possess a firearm or discuss the case with any of the endorsed witnesses.

Further details about the origins of the charges against Curry and Fredricks and the investigation of the sheriff’s office have been restricted. Multiple open records requests made by The Herald have been declined by the KBI, Shawnee County Attorney’s Office and Franklin County, citing the ongoing nature of the case.

Both Curry and Fredricks posted bail late Wednesday and no longer are in custody, according to the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office. After posting his bail, Curry appeared to have at least tentatively reclaimed his role as Franklin County sheriff, a post he apparently lost temporarily Wednesday after the KBI arrested him. According to state statute, Franklin County Clerk Janet Paddock temporarily assumed Curry’s duties Wednesday.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office refused to comment on whether Curry or Fredricks arrived at work Thursday or Friday, citing a policy to not comment on personnel matters and deferred to the Franklin County Attorney’s Office.

Stephen Hunting, Franklin County attorney, said Thursday that Franklin County Undersheriff Steve Lunger had assumed the day-to-day duties of the sheriff’s office, and that Lunger had been in contact with Curry.

The Shawnee County Attorney’s Office is handling the case after Hunting recused his office in September to avoid a conflict or perceived conflict of interest.

Possible witnesses

A former Franklin County attorney, an Ottawa police officer and the mother of a fallen deputy appear to be among the witnesses slated to be called to testify in Fredricks’ and Curry’s court cases.

Criminal complaints filed by Hiatt Wednesday detail a list of individuals who might be called as witnesses.

The potential witness list, according to the document, includes Heather R. Jones, former Franklin County attorney and more recently head of the child abuse and sex crimes unit for the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office; Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa Police Department; Kathleen “Katie” Smith, the mother of deceased Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sam Smith; James Bridges, special agent with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; Sheri McCracken, prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Kansas; Fredricks; Sgt. Christopher Pruitt, with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Lt. Curtis Hall, with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Jeremie Thompson; Jessica Blackstone; KBI lab personnel; Wyandotte County personnel; and an unnamed confidential informant.

New contact

for Sheriff’s office

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has designated an acting public information officer after Fredricks’ arrest Wednesday.

Det. Sgt. Shane Pruitt is expected to succeed Fredricks in many of the office’s communication duties.

Pruitt would not confirm whether Fredricks had been terminated by the sheriff’s office, citing a policy to not comment on personnel matters.

Petition for ouster

Hunting, who held a press conference Wednesday to make public Curry’s and Fredricks’ arrests, filed a petition for ouster that would, after proceedings, remove Curry from office. Hunting publicly asked during the press conference that Curry resign as county sheriff to avoid the drawn-out ouster process.

“I take no joy in this decision. ... Unfortunately, I’m left with no choice but to follow through with ouster proceedings,” Hunting said Wednesday during the press conference. “In that regard, I today am asking publicly for Mr. Jeff Curry to resign as sheriff of the Franklin County Sheriff’s office.”

Late this week, Hunting said he had not received a resignation from Curry.

If Curry resigns or is removed by ouster proceedings, Undersheriff Lunger and County Clerk Paddock temporarily would assume the office’s duties until the Franklin County Republican Central Committee appoints Curry’s successor. After a candidate is named by the committee, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback would have to approve the decision.

The ouster proceedings also are being handled by the Shawnee County Attorney’s Office.

Hunting’s entire Wednesday press conference, including questions from the media, can been seen at www.ottawaherald.com/localvideonews

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