WICHITA, Kan. – People caught with marijuana in the city of Wichita could now face less serious penalties if a new ordinance gets final approval tomorrow.

“Potentially, it is not a guarantee,” says Vice Mayor Wichita Janet Miller.

Vice Mayor Janet Miller says for someone caught for the first time with a small amount of pot and has no recent felonies or charges, the penalty could just be $50 and a court appearance, resulting in the possibility of no misdemeanor.

But it’s up to the judge, she says.

“The judge has the discretion to go with this presumptive penalty of a $50 fine, but could decide to do something different, up to and including charging the misdemeanor, finding you guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Miller says the idea is to over-punish someone who needs a second chance.

“For one possession they can end up with so many fines that they can’t pay that they end up in jail, which can cause you to lose your job, or can cause you to lose your license, which can cause you to lose your job.”

But if a sheriff’s deputy makes the stop, even within the city limits of Wichita, expect state law to be enforced, not the city ordinance.

“It is a misdemeanor violation under state law. Our deputies have the discretion as to whether or not they want to arrest in that situation, or seize the evidence and then write up a case to present it to the District Attorney’s for prosecution,” says Lin Dehning of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

Defense attorney Dan Monnat says while it ultimately is up to the judge — the prosecutor has some discretion in the case.

“If the sheriff’s officer brings a state accusation of possession of marijuana to the district attorney, it is perfectly within the district attorney’s prosecutorial discretion to say, ‘we don’t want to handle that here, take that over to the city.’”

The ordinance will go into final reading Tuesday morning and will then go into effect on June 16.

See full interview at KSN.com

WICHITA – A Wichita mom is fighting for a change in the Kansas legal system after she said her teenage son was left to die in a pool.

“It was the end of the world because you never think that you would bury your own child, it’s usually children burying their parents,” said Velarie Wallace.

Wallace lost her son, Phillip Harris, on July 1, 2016.

“It was just heartbreaking, just unbelievable,” Wallace said.

Wichita police said Harris, 17, and three girls went for a late-night swim at the Horizons East Apartments. Police said a maintenance worker found Harris at the bottom of the pool in the early morning of July 1. They told KSN at the time, the three girls Harris went swimming with never called 911, even after they found his dead body, because they were scared.

“It was hurtful to me because I have a 4-year-old that sometimes when we play because I have diabetes, and when we play he will say I need to call 911 for mom if something happens, so even at 4 years old he knows. It’s just the values of morals and the thing to do,” Wallace said. “It would have been the right thing to do, to call 911, even if they left him, call the cops to let someone know that he was there,” Wallace said.

Wichita police said the three girls were later charged with trespassing in the case. Wallace, however, believes they should have been held responsible for her son’s death.

“I think as human beings you should value other people’s lives. Do the right thing to help. This being the summer time, this could possibly happen to someone else,” she said.

KSN asked a Wichita criminal defense lawyer about rescue laws in the State of Kansas. While the lawyer would not speak directly to the Harris case, he did give KSN insight into state law.

“Generally in the United States, the law regulates actions and codes of morality regulate the less clear area of omissions to act. So generally in Kansas there is no legal duty to rescue or render aid to someone in peril,” said Criminal Defense Lawyer and KSN Legal Expert Dan Monnat.

Monnat said there is not a civil or criminal law in Kansas stating someone must help another person in distress. He said, however, there are circumstances including special relationships, like parent to child, and cases related to car crashes where a legal duty is created.

“For instance, the criminal law of the State of Kansas requires a person operating a motor vehicle involved in an automobile accident involving death, injury or damage to render reasonable assistance which may include carrying an injured person to the doctor or hospital,” Monnat said.

While Wallace said she understands the law, she said she wants to change it. The mom of five is now pushing to add a law making it so people must render aid no matter the circumstance. She said her ultimate goal is to prevent another person from losing their life, the way her son did.

“I made him a promise until the day that I go to my grave, I am going to see that law changed. I’m going to see it changed and I think he’s smiling down saying ‘Go mom, go mom, I know you can do it,’” Wallace said.

Wallace said she’s in the beginning stages of talking with local law enforcement about how to move forward with the petition to change the law. She said she’d like to have her plan to the senate by the next legislative session.

Harris was about to begin at Job Corps, before he died. Wallace said he wanted to be an engineer.

See full interview at KSN.com

WICHITA, Kan. – Chambers USA 2017 has ranked Dan Monnat in the top tier of Kansas attorneys in the Litigation: White-Collar Crime and Government Investigations sector. The publication, which conducts independent surveys of both lawyers and their clients, writes that Monnat garners “particular praise for his exceptionally detail-oriented” approach to cases.

Monnat has practiced criminal law, white-collar criminal law and appellate law in Wichita for more than 40 years. A graduate of California State University, Monnat received his J.D. from Creighton University School of Law. He also is a graduate of Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College.

A frequent national lecturer and editorial contributor on criminal defense topics, Monnat is the author of “Sentencing, Probation, and Collateral Consequences,” a chapter of the Kansas Bar Association’s Kansas Criminal Law Handbook, 5th edition.  He was the Governor’s appointee to the Kansas Sentencing Commission from 2007 – 2011.

Monnat has earned distinction as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, the Litigation Counsel of America and the Kansas Bar Foundation.  He currently sits on the Kansas Association of Trial Lawyers’ Board of Editors.

Monnat is a member of the National Trial Lawyers Association and served as a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Board of Directors from 1996 – 2004.  He is a two-term past president of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a member of the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association.

A Wichita man was sentenced Thursday to 46 months in federal prison for turning stolen mail into 14 false identities.

Jeremy Peterson, 43, of Wichita, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to produce false identification documents.

He admitted that other conspirators provided him with stolen mail he used to produce counterfeit documents including driver’s licenses and state identification cards. He produced documents for 14 stolen identities that conspirators used to buy cars. Local auto dealers suffered an actual loss of more than $218,000 as a result.

Peterson was one of 13 defendants charged last year in USA v Below, an indictment alleging they took part in a $3.5 million fraud scheme – all stemming from something as simple as opening a mailbox.

“The easier the mailbox is to access, the further it is from a place of detection, the more vulnerable it is to theft.” said Dan Monnat, a Wichita attorney who’s familiar with the tactics thieves use to get their hands on your mail.

“What I’ve seen, that you wouldn’t think you’d see, is individuals in fairly unmarked automobiles just driving down suburban streets that have mailboxes at the curb and opening them up, as if they were delivering mail when in fact they were extracting mail.”

He says curbside mail boxes are typically the most vulnerable, and thieves will look for anything from personal information, to checks you’ve written.

“The checks can always be stolen, washed and re-used by thieves to empty your bank account.” he says. And although there’s no way to completely stop mail theft from happening, there are some things you can do to lower your chances of becoming a victim.

“First of all, don’t allow your mail to accumulate in your mailbox. Pick it up at least once a day. You may want to protect yourself by investing in a mail slot that drops your mail into the protection of your home or place of business.”

He also recommends people invest in a PO Box if they have the option, and if you do use a curbside mailbox – don’t raise the flag for outgoing mail, that’s an indication to thieves that there may be something, like a check, waiting inside.

See full video at KWCH.com

WICHITA, Kan. – Who’s Who Legal 2017 has named Dan Monnat, of Monnat & Spurrier, Chartered, one of the world’s leading practitioners in the Investigations sector. Who’s Who Legal combines annually with Global Investigations Review to identify the world’s leading lawyers, forensic accountants and digital forensics experts who assist companies and individuals during internal and external investigations.

“This is an exceptional group of worldwide lawyers and forensic experts who regularly represent clients facing external enforcement proceedings, whether that’s supervising dawn raids or ensuring that regulatory authorities are kept in check throughout the investigation,” Monnat said. “Our firm is routinely hired by clients facing local, state or federal investigations, and I’m honored to be recognized for the work we’ve done in protecting our clients’ rights in Kansas and before the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Monnat has practiced in Wichita for more than 40 years, handling criminal and white-collar criminal cases that have attracted worldwide attention. He is a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Criminal Lawyers and the Litigation Counsel of America.

A graduate of California State University, Monnat received his J.D. from Creighton University School of Law and is a graduate of Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyer’s College.

A frequent national lecturer and editorial contributor on criminal defense topics, Monnat is the author of “Sentencing, Probation, and Collateral Consequences,” a chapter of the Kansas Bar Association’s Kansas Criminal Law Handbook, 5th edition.  From 2007 – 2011, Monnat served on the Kansas Sentencing Commission as a Governor’s appointee. He currently sits on the Kansas Association of Trial Lawyers’ Board of Editors.

Monnat served as a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Board of Directors from 1996 – 2004, and is a two-term past president of the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

An official with the Wichita Police Department says 193 firearms were stolen from vehicles last year and 78 guns have been taken in car break-ins this year.

Sgt. Nikki Woodrow shared the information after Chief Gordon Ramsay addressed the thefts in a Tweet Wednesday.

“The police department urges our community to be vigilant and not leave property in vehicles, especially weapons,” Sgt. Woodrow said. “These weapons in the wrong hands can cause a very dangerous situation to society.”

“Seventy-eight this year so far and here it is just the end of April. It’s definitely alarming,” Sgt. Woodrow said.

The map below shows the areas where gun thefts from vehicles have happened since 2016:

“Obviously if you go to a place and you have a firearm on you and you can’t take it into a business, you should have extra precautions.”

Below are the numbers of guns stolen from vehicles since 2013:

  • 2017 (YTD) – 78
  • 2016 – 193
  • 2015 – 151
  • 2014 – 85
  • 2013 – 98

Previous story:

The Wichita Police Department Chief is advising the community of gun thefts from cars.

On Twitter, Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay wrote, “Reading about another handgun stolen from a car. We had over 100 gun thefts from cars last year. This is a preventable crime!!”

Gun safety experts at Thunderbird Firearms Academy advise gun owners to be safe and responsible.

“We tell people, ‘you’re responsible for every round fired from that gun. That includes if somebody else is firing those rounds,'” said Brandon Light, director of retail operations at Thunderbird Firearms.

Thieves often break in and grab things that in plain sight, as well as easily accessible places like the glove box and center console.

“If somebody’s going to break into your vehicle anyway, those are probably the first places that they’re going to hit,” said Light.

Light recommends that people use a lock box system that can cost around $30. There are more advanced and technical systems that are around $100.

“You don’t have to spend that much money if you like the convenience, that’s great. All I care about is that you lock the gun up, if it’s not in your immediate control,” said Light.

Wichita Police also urge people to take out personal property, purses, handbags, and electronics before locking your car.

See full interview at KAKE.com

The Wichita Eagle

By Amy Renee Leiker

A Sedgwick County judge last week sent a 23-year-old man to prison for just under six years for shooting three people he thought were trying to collect drug money from him.

Two of the men Adam Ray shot in the head died, leading to homicide charges. District Judge Ben Burgess on Thursday ordered Ray to serve a 71-month term for killing Omar Garcia and Ernesto Aguilar-Retana, both 21, and injuring a third man while they were in a car in the 5300 block of North Meridian on Oct. 22, 2015.

Prosecutors charged Ray with two counts of second-degree murder and one count each of attempted second-degree murder and possession of methamphetamine. But he pleaded no contest in December to amended charges of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter.

Ray’s defense attorney, Sal Intagliata, in an interview after the sentencing hearing, said Ray fired at the three men because he feared they were after him for money, drugs, revenge or his life over some meth he’d stolen earlier from another man. Prosecutors had asked the judge to order Ray serve about 4 1/2 years more time than he was given, according to court records.

See full story at Kansas.com

The Wichita Eagle

By Amy Renee Leiker

Halstead’s former police chief entered a no contest plea Tuesday afternoon to two misdemeanors involving the theft of ammunition from the city.

Steven C. Lewis was sentenced to 60 days in jail on each count, to run concurrently, said Harvey County Attorney David Yoder. But the judge suspended the term and let him go free after Lewis agreed to pay $1,255 in restitution to the City of Halstead and $230 in court costs, follow all laws and surrender his law enforcement certification to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer’s Standards and Training.

The sentence follows the terms attorneys negotiated for Lewis in his plea agreement. In exchange, Yoder dismissed a felony charge alleging Lewis misused public funds in 2011.

“The City of Halstead is officially glad to have this part of the investigation involving their community resolved and behind them,” Yoder said after the plea hearing.

Lewis’ defense attorney said the former chief entered the no-contest plea to “quickly resolve this case.”

“After 37, almost 38, years as a law enforcement officer, it is unfortunate that Mr. Lewis’ career concluded in this fashion,” Sal Intagliata said. But, he said, Lewis “didn’t want continued media coverage on him and his family because it was affecting them both. So he thought this was … the most appropriate way to resolve this.”

Lewis was arrested and booked on a warrant in August.

The charges against him arose after a KBI investigation found that Lewis endorsed and deposited into his personal bank account checks meant to reimburse the City of Halstead for ammunition he ordered for private individuals in 2012 and 2013. As police chief, Lewis was responsible for ordering ammunition for the police department.

Halstead’s former city administrator, James R. Hatfield, also is facing a felony charge of perjury associated with Lewis and a KBI investigation. He’s accused of failing to disclose to Kansas CPOST the reason for Lewis’ retirement from the department.

Hatfield is due in court for a preliminary hearing on March 23, Yoder said. If convicted, he could face five to 17 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

See full story at Kansas.com


By John Asebes

New memos put out by the Department of Homeland Security aim to place a higher emphasis on stopping illegal immigration, still prioritizing the deportation of criminal illegal immigrants.

“The new policies greatly expand the targets of immigration enforcement,” says Attorney Dan Monnat.

KSN spoke with attorney Dan Monnat, who says fast track deportation was typically sought for undocumented illegal immigrants within 100 miles of a border and in the U.S. less than 14 days. He says this memo goes beyond that.

“A federal agent can seek fast track deportation of any undocumented immigrant in the U.S. anywhere who has been here less than two years. Obviously to achieve all this more money and police power is required,” says Monnat.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter is anxious to hear how these memos could impact his staff.

“We are not able to enforce immigration laws.”

He says, right now, if his deputies pull a car over and find out there are undocumented immigrants inside they call ICE. If those individuals aren’t known felons or suspected of criminal behavior, they are usually let go.

But one of the memos appears to allow local law enforcement to be made immigration officers.

Easter says he’s had no communication from the feds about this change and he’s hoping to get some clarification.

“If there is a change that comes from this particular presidency where there is some laws that are going to be passed to have us enforce immigration law then we will follow the law,” says Easter.

For those that work to protect immigrants there’s worry right now. But there is also being an effort made to better understand what the memos mean.

“Loss of hope and desire to fight back and protect the family is our nature,” says Guadalupe Magdeleno.

Also included in the memo is the DHS’s plan to hire thousands more ICE and border patrol agents and efforts to begin building a border wall.

See full video at KSN.com

WICHITA, Kan. – The Wichita City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve security upgrades in the Old Town area. The city plans to add up to 70 high-definition cameras. The cost of the security upgrades is $750,000.

Wichita Deputy Police Chief Jose Salcido said the project was started with three goals in mind: crime prevention, crime solving, and prosecution.

Deputy Salcido cited a study that found a 51 percent reduction in parking lot crime. The cameras would be used for video forensics, catching a criminal in the act, or identifying a suspect.

Police will be able to live stream the feed in a command center downtown.

“You here that people don’t come downtown because they don’t feel safe,” says Gina Buster.

The plan will also allow for businesses who get their own cameras to hook up to the feed, and choose what cameras they allow the police to watch. Meads Corner general manager, Gina Buster, says more cameras downtown is a big benefit for employee safety.

“Knowing that they have not just us and our security system but they city as well,” says Buster.

But also for people like Amy and Krystal, who sometimes walk down to get their coffee and have sometimes felt a little uneasy walking at night.

“If I came down here or maybe by myself with a friend then I would feel more secure walking around and doing stuff,” says Krystal McMillan.

But where do you draw the line on too much surveillance?

“How can it be private if it is in a public place?”

KSN legal analyst, Dan Monnat, says the camera’s and surveillance are within the legal limits of privacy.

“I don’t think 70 cameras in a public place push the limits of privacy any more than 70 law enforcement officers in a public place,” says Monnat.

So what business will be first in allowing police access to camera’s inside and outside?

“We will talk about that and see if it is something that is in our best interest to do,” says Buster.

Deputy Salcido told the city council that several officers would be trained to monitor the cameras from the command center.

“We would have an officer or two watching the cameras that could see a disturbance. Rather than wait for a bystander to pick up the phone, we don’t have to wait for the incident to get to this point, we can intervene when it is starting.”

The project would be completed  by June 2017.

See full video at KSN.com