The Kansas Attorney General’s Office on Friday said that while it doesn’t dispute a motion filed by lawyers for a Wichita abortion provider about records being mailed out of the state, it shouldn’t affect the prosecution of George Tiller.

Prosecutor Barry Disney said in a pleading filed in Sedgwick County District Court that he agreed that a package containing abortion records was mailed to Virginia, where former Attorney General Phill Kline works at the Liberty University Law School.

But Disney said it caused no harm to his case — in which Tiller is charged with 19 misdemeanors — because Kline is no longer a Kansas prosecutor.

“The mailing of this package is at its best an innocent act that means nothing,” Disney wrote to the court Friday. “At its worst it is the act of a private citizen whose conduct is not binding upon the office of the attorney general.”

Kline’s personal lawyer said the mailing “was a mistake.”

“Until 24 hours ago, no one associated with Phill Kline even knew what was in that package,” said Caleb Stegall, who represents Kline.

Dan Monnat, who represents Tiller, said in court papers filed late Thursday that the package was mailed on Kline’s last day as Johnson County district attorney and contained sensitive information about women who had received abortions at Tiller’s Wichita clinic.

Monnat argued that it is further evidence that Kline had no regard for patients’ privacy and is further proof of alleged misconduct in his investigation of Tiller.

Contacted Friday at the Liberty Law School, Kline declined to comment.

Kline has said that Monnat is trying to deflect attention from the criminal charges against his client.

Stegall said Kline took a collection of documents to Sedgwick County for a January hearing, under subpoena by Tiller’s lawyers. Among them were Kline’s personal diaries, which Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens ordered would not be turned over to Tiller’s attorneys.

But the stack also included abortion records and summaries of Tiller’s records.

“Those records were supposed to remain in Sedgwick County,” Stegall said.

Stegall said that when the box was sent to Johnson County from Sedgwick County, Kline’s administrative staff forwarded it to Virginia unopened — not inspecting the box to see whether it contained records that should remain with the district attorney.

Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-0514 or [email protected]. All content © 2009 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.

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Three days after Phill Kline testified in a Sedgwick County courtroom about the handling of abortion files, copies of those records were mailed to the Virginia city where the former Kansas prosecutor had taken a new job.

Lawyers for Wichita abortion provider George Tiller said in court papers filed late Thursday that the mailed package of documents is further evidence that Kline has no regard for patients’ privacy and further proof of alleged misconduct in his investigation.

Kline, who now works at the Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va., did not immediately respond to attempts to contact him.

Assistant Kansas Attorney General Barry Disney, who is prosecuting a misdemeanor case against Tiller, said he plans to file a response today. But Disney doesn’t dispute the main facts of Thursday’s filing.

Dan Monnat, a member of Tiller’s defense team, is asking Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens to dismiss the charges against Tiller, who is set for trial next month.

Tiller’s lawyers have argued that Kline’s conduct when he investigated the doctor as Kansas Attorney General was so outrageous that the resulting charges should be dropped.

Tiller faces 19 misdemeanor charges related to his business relationship with a doctor who provided second opinions on whether the health of the mother was a reason to perform late-term abortions.

“The recent event suggests that Kline’s misconduct continues and there is still a need for the court to discourage it by forbidding prosecutors from using evidence acquired by Kline against Tiller,” Monnat said.

History of the case

Kline began investigating Tiller in April 2003, months after becoming Kansas attorney general.

News that Kline had tried to subpoena records from two Kansas abortion clinics, including Tiller’s, became public in 2005. Kline’s pursuit of the records became a focus of his failed 2006 re-election campaign.

Kline became Johnson County district attorney a month later, after being appointed to the office vacated by his successor as attorney general, Paul Morrison.

Morrison filed the current charges against Tiller in June 2007. Morrison resigned six months later because of a sex scandal. Steve Six, the current attorney general, took over prosecution of the case.

During a hearing in Wichita in November, Tiller’s lawyers produced evidence that Kline’s investigators had taken copies of records that identified abortion patients from the attorney general’s office in Topeka to Johnson County.

When a judge overseeing the case in Topeka learned about it, he ordered Kline to return the files, court records showed.

But Kline testified at another hearing in January that he kept summaries of the records with him and brought them to court with him in Sedgwick County.

Records in the mail 

Laura Shaneyfelt, another member of Tiller’s defense team, filed a sworn affidavit Thursday saying:

• The documents Kline brought with him to Sedgwick County were mailed from the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office to Liberty University on Jan. 9 — Kline’s last day as the county’s prosecutor.

• The package was returned to the Johnson County office on Feb. 13 because it was not addressed properly.

• Current Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and assistant prosecutor Chris McMullin opened the box and found the Tiller records. They contacted Disney with the attorney general’s office.

Disney said he and an investigator went to Overland Park to inspect the package and recommended that it be locked in the Johnson County office. Disney then notified Monnat about the package.

Shaneyfelt wrote in her affidavit that Howe and McMullin said they had “a pretty strong suspicion” that the package was mailed by a former Kline employee who no longer worked at their office.

Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-0514 or [email protected]. All content © 2009 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.

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