Kline Abortion Inquiry

A legal battle over whether Attorney General Phill Kline has authority to pursue charges against a Wichita abortion provider will play out today in Sedgwick County District Court.

Kline seeks reinstatement of 30 misdemeanor charges against physician George Tiller that were dismissed Friday at the request of Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston. In a request for “emergency reconsideration,” Kline’s office contends that Foulston wrongly interfered and that she did not object to Kline’s filing the charges when he met with her in Wichita last Thursday.

Attached to the court document filed by Kline’s office is an e-mail Foulston sent to Kline on Friday.

In it, she wrote: “Nothing in our conversation yesterday should be construed as having acquiesced in the filing of these charges by your office . . . .”

She wrote that after researching the issue, “I have determined that you clearly have no authority to pursue criminal charges in this jurisdiction without my consent.”

In bold type, she asked Kline to forward to her the investigative file that led to the allegations against Tiller so her office could determine whether prosecution is warranted.

The district attorney’s office was acting only on the question of whether Kline had authority to bring the charges, not on the merits of his case, said district attorney’s spokeswoman Georgia Cole. Cole declined to comment further.

District Judge Paul Clark signed the order to dismiss the charges Friday. He will preside over the hearing at 2 p.m. today.

In a brief statement, he said the hearing would focus on whether the court has “power to limit the authority of a district attorney to dismiss” the charges.

The charges included allegations that Tiller carried out 15 illegal late-term abortions and didn’t properly report the procedures to state health officials. The charges said the violations occurred in 2003. His lawyer says he is innocent.

One of Tiller’s lawyers, Dan Monnat, said Tuesday: “We have confidence in the decision made last week by Judge Clark and District Attorney Foulston. We believe that will stand.”

Monnat said he knows of no other similar charges filed in Sedgwick County since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that declared a basic right to abortion.

“These charges related to his (Kline’s) personal disagreement” with courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, “that a woman’s mental health factors into her decision to terminate a pregnancy,” Monnat said.

A spokesman for Kline’s office didn’t return phone calls today, and Kline declined to comment.

Kline, a Republican who lost in November to Democrat Paul Morrison and will leave office in two weeks, requested the “emergency reconsideration” late last week.

The court document says the charges stemmed from “years of on-going investigation” by the attorney general’s office, “involving hundreds of man-hours, the review of thousands of pages of documents, pleadings, and exhibits, and interviews with witnesses.”

After reviewing the evidence, Sedgwick County District Judge Eric Yost found probable cause to believe that Tiller committed the crimes, the document said.

“District Attorney Foulston has sought to bring an immediate and summary end to this criminal case, without allowing a jury to decide the charges on the evidence . . . ” the document said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or [email protected]

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