TOPEKA, February 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - It was revealed during Tuesday’s proceedings in the ethics trial against pro-life former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, that the man who replaced Kline as District Attorney of Johnson County, Steven Howe, had intercepted and opened mail that contained personal effects belonging to Kline – an act that may have put the DA in violation of federal law.
Kline is being tried in Topeka over alleged ethics violations in his criminal prosecution of Planned Parenthood and late-term abortionist George Tiller.
The revelation came at the end of Disciplinary Administrator Stan Hazlett’s interrogation of Kline, when Hazlett raised questions about Kline’s diary, which had been obtained by Hazlett’s office.
According to Kline’s attorneys, they were given to understand that the matter of Kline’s diary would not be used in the disciplinary hearing.
Just before the diary was brought up, Kline quoted Judge Richard Anderson’s incredulity that AG Paul Morrison had joined with Planned Parenthood (in August 2007 Writ of Mandamus) to demand they both hand over the abortion records essential to Kline’s prosecution of Planned Parenthood on charges of conspiracy to commit illegal abortions.
“Have you ever heard of a prosecutor and judge giving back evidence to the targets of criminal activity?” Kline quoted Anderson as telling him.
The Planned Parenthood in Johnson county still faces 107 criminal counts, including 23 felony charges, filed by Kline.
Several minutes later, the fact of Kline’s personal diary was subpoenaed by Tiller’s legal counsel was raised, and that it remains currently in the hands of the Disciplinary Administrator’s Office, despite repeated requests from Kline to have it returned to him.
“We have your diary,” Hazlett confirmed in the trial, shortly before wrapping up his questioning of Kline.
“I’d like it back,” rejoined Kline.
The fact of the Disciplinary Administrator’s refusing to return the personal diary to Kline elicited laughs from the courtroom.
But soon thereafter the testimony showed that the manner in which Kline’s diary was obtained by Hazlett was no laughing matter - and may even have been illegal under federal postal laws.
Kline said he had forgotten his personal diary and other items at the Johnson County DA’s office in January 2009 when he was driving on the road, moving across the country to take up a position as a visiting professor at Liberty University. He said he asked his administrative assistant, Megan Harmon, who was still at the office, to mail the diary to him at his new Virginia address.
According to his testimony, Harmon sent a package, containing the diary, to the wrong address. The mail package meant for Kline was instead returned to the sender at the DA’s office..
But by the time the package was returned, Kline’s successor Steve Howe was the new DA in Johnson County, and Harmon no longer was working in the DA’s office.
When the package was returned to the DA’s office, it was stated in the course of the trial proceedings that Kline’s mail was then opened, apparently by Howe. Kline’s attorneys later confirmed to LSN that Howe had opened Kline’s mail, and sent the diary along with other contents in the package to Hazlett’s office.
Holbrook did not say to LSN that Howe broke any laws by opening a package addressed to Kline before forwarding it to Hazlett. He also said he was not aware if that action would have violated federal laws regulating the protection of US mail.
But if the package was addressed specifically to Kline, it raises questions as to whether federal laws against mail tampering may have been broken - a potential federal crime that carries jail time.
Under Title 18 of the US Code, deliberately tampering with mail intended for another person is a felony offense. In Part I, Chapter 83, § 1702, “Obstruction of correspondence” it states: “Whoever takes any letter, postal card, or package out of any post office or any authorized depository for mail matter, or from any letter or mail carrier, or which has been in any post office or authorized depository, or in the custody of any letter or mail carrier, before it has been delivered to the person to whom it was directed, with design to obstruct the correspondence, or to pry into the business or secrets of another, or opens, secretes, embezzles, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
The following section of that chapter, § 1703 (b) “Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers” also may apply to Howe. It states: “Whoever, without authority, opens, or destroys any mail or package of newspapers not directed to him, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
The package alleged to have contained the diary was produced in the courtroom, but inside the box was a large black three-ring binder with sheets of paper. It was unclear what exactly the nature of the binder was or how it was related to the diary. It appeared that it was an item contained in the box Harmon intended for Kline at his new home in Virginia.
There was some amusing speculation by a couple of the 16 members of the audience that Hazlett might give back the diary right there and then. However, that did not happen.
LSN was not able to independently verify the name and address of Kline on the box, although it was agreed that was the box Harmon used to send Kline his diary.
Hazlett declined to shed any light on the way Kline’s diary was obtained, when approached by LSN when today’s proceedings concluded shortly after 5:15 p.m.
“I got a moment and I don’t want to talk about this case,” he stated politely.