Reason Sought In Home Search
A Sedgwick County district judge heard arguments Friday over whether authorities should turn over a document that explains why police searched a Wichita man’s home in December as part of the BTK investigation. Roger Valadez was cleared of being a BTK suspect days after police rushed into his home, searched his house and took a DNA swab from him against his will, his lawyer says. But five months later, Valadez still doesn’t know how authorities justified the search warrant.
In a sometimes tense and impassioned hearing before District Judge Greg Waller, Valadez’s lawyer, Dan Monnat, contended that it is his client’s right to know why police — acting on a tip in the serial-murder case — suspected him and searched his home. It’s not clear when Waller will rule on the affidavit.
Dennis Rader, a 60-year-old Park City man, has since been charged with 10 counts of murder in the BTK case.
Monnat called the police search a “home invasion” and said information in the affidavit could be used in a lawsuit seeking damages. But Kevin O’Connor, a deputy district attorney, argued that releasing the affidavit would disclose information that could interfere with the pending case against Rader. He didn’t elaborate.
O’Connor also contended that releasing the affidavit, which would disclose the identity of a tipster or informants, would have a chilling effect on others who provide information to authorities.
Monnat said Valadez poses no threat to any tipster. Knowing the identity of the tipster is important to any challenge against police, he said. During Friday’s hearing, Waller granted Valadez’s request that his DNA be purged from any state databases and sample repositories.
But the main point of contention in Waller’s courtroom Friday was the affidavit, or oral testimony, used to justify the search. Monnat filed a motion seeking the information in early March, after Waller signed a seal on search warrants involving Valadez. Prosecutors said the seal was sought to protect informants and privacy interests.
Police said they went to the home to follow up on a tip they had received in the BTK investigation. Police arrested Valadez on an unrelated misdemeanor trespassing warrant.
Monnat argued that state law says Valadez is entitled to see the affidavit. “Mr. Valadez can think of no reason on Earth” why someone would suspect him in the BTK case, Monnat said. “The power of the state to break down doors and raid homes is an awesome power,” Monnat said. When O’Connor stepped up to address Waller, he dismissed the “scary words by Mr. Monnat.” O’Connor said the search was legally executed.
The affidavit, he said, is not in the public interest and should remain confidential, to protect informants. If the information were released to Monnat, O’Connor implied, it could be released to others, including media covering the issue.
Valadez initially came under intense media scrutiny. Within hours of his arrest, and before he had been cleared, his name and address were aired in some media accounts.
He has a pending privacy lawsuit against KSN-TV, Channel 3.
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The Wichita Eagle – By Tim Potter