Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Deal means Curry won't face jury trial [With video]

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/1/2013

A deal made public Monday means Franklin County’s former top law enforcement official won’t face a jury trial in the criminal case against him.

The trade off? Jeff Curry must leave his profession of nearly 20 years.

A deal made public Monday means Franklin County’s former top law enforcement official won’t face a jury trial in the criminal case against him.

The trade off? Jeff Curry must leave his profession of nearly 20 years.

Charges against former Sheriff Curry and Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy and public information officer with the sheriff’s office, likely will be dismissed at a future date as part of an agreement worked out between the defendants’ attorneys and the prosecutor’s office. The details of those agreements were presented to Senior Judge John E. Sanders during a scheduled preliminary hearing Monday afternoon at Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa.

Curry accepted the terms of a 12-month “diversion” agreement, and he and Fredricks both agreed to surrender their law enforcement licenses and never again seek such licensing.

Curry was arrested Feb. 27 by agents with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on a felony charge of interference with law enforcement and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. Fredricks also faced a felony charge of interference with law enforcement.

If Curry successfully completes the diversion, both criminal charges against him would be dismissed, special prosecutor J. Todd Hiatt, who is working on behalf of the Franklin County Attorney’s Office and the State of Kansas, told Judge Sanders.

Diversions are agreements entered into between defendants and prosecutors that stipulate if the defendant complies with the terms of the agreement, the charges are dismissed. Diversion programs are available in most district courts, including Franklin County.

 Addressing Curry in the packed courtroom, Judge Sanders asked him if he understood that if he violated the terms of the diversion agreement, the case would be placed back on the court docket.

The judge said as part of the diversion, Curry waived his right to a jury trial on the two charges. The only proceedings, the judge said, would be a bench trial on stipulated facts, as set forth in the criminal affidavits and on the testimony of Jim Bridges, a KBI special agent who was the lead investigator in the case.

A petition for Curry’s ouster from office, filed by Franklin County Attorney Stephen J. Hunting Feb. 27, indicates Bridges was assigned in late May 2012 to “investigate allegations that former Franklin County Attorney Heather Jones has purchased methamphetamine,” according to the court document, which Sanders unsealed Monday during the proceedings.

The court document alleges that Bridges learned during the course of his investigation that Curry had notified Jones that she had been identified by a confidential informant as someone who purchased methamphetamine, according to the ouster petition.

Bridges’ testimony and all affidavits, documents and reports that were part of the KBI’s months-long investigation would be admitted to support the charges in the complaint, the judge said. It would then be up to the judge, not a jury, to determine if the defendant was guilty of the charges, Sanders said.

When asked by Sanders if he understood and accepted the terms of the diversion agreement, Curry replied, “Yes, your honor.”

The judge accepted the diversion agreement and stayed prosecution of Curry on the charges for 12 months while the diversion was in place.

The prosecutor, Hiatt, also told the judge that under an agreement worked out with Fredricks, the deputy agreed to surrender his law enforcement license. In exchange, the felony charge against him would be dropped. Hiatt asked that Fredricks’ hearing be postponed until Fredricks had completed the paperwork associated with the agreement.

Once the paperwork was returned to the prosecutor’s office, Hiatt said, the prosecutor’s intention would be to dismiss the charge.

Sanders accepted the terms of the agreement worked out between Fredricks’ attorney Chris Brown and the prosecutor and agreed to postpone Fredricks’ preliminary hearing, pending the likely dismissal of the charge. Fredricks was not present in the courtroom Monday.

Curry, who has served the sheriff’s office in some capacity since 1994, announced his resignation plans March 21 during the first hearing of the ouster proceedings filed against him after his arrest. Appointed sheriff in 2010 and then elected in 2012, Curry’s resignation became official at 5 p.m. Monday.

Because Curry had resigned and his resignation had been accepted by the governor, Sanders said, he dismissed the ouster civil case against the former sheriff during Monday’s proceedings.

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