TOPEKA, Kansas, February 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Monday’s ethics trial of Phill Kline over his criminal investigation of abortion provider Planned Parenthood kicked into high gear when the former attorney general’s (AG) defense counsel brought a vigorous cross-examination of the prosecution’s first witness.
As soon as the court resumed after lunch at 1:40 p.m., Kline’s chief counsel, Mr. Reid Holbrook, dissected the testimony of Disciplinary Administrator Stan Hazlett’s first witness against Kline, Veronica Derscher, a former assistant attorney general overseeing the criminal division.
Derscher first admitted under Holbrook’s questioning that the two times she and an associate met with Judge Anderson their remarks were not transcribed. While she disputed that her comments in January 2007 about Phill Kline before Judge Richard Anderson were “disparaging,” she seemed to concede that they were not favorable toward Kline, the former AG, who was by then District Attorney of Johnson County.
She said Anderson instead “wanted to talk about the merits of the case, and I didn’t want to do that.”
Holbrook also pointed out that Derscher said in a letter she did not want to “pander to [Judge Richard] Anderson” - a statement that she said was more illustrative of her frustration dealing with Kline having the abortion records.
Derscher backed off that morning’s statement to Disciplinary Administrator Stan Hazlett that Anderson told her, “I don’t believe you,” when she told him that Kline had taken the Tiller investigation file and medical records with him to Johnson County.
Holbrook pointed out that Anderson in sworn testimony stated that he told Derscher that he did not want to involve himself at the time in what looked to him like a political dispute.
“That is not what you told us this morning,” said Holbrook.
Derscher then said that Anderson actually just said “I acted skeptical, whatever, whatever” about Kline having the Tiller medical records.
Anderson found out April 9, 2007 about the transfer of the Tiller file to Kline’s DA office, and requested the file returned to the AG within a week by 5 p.m. Derscher admitted that this was done, although she was irritated that Kline held on to the records for those few months.
She also stated that she was frustrated Anderson would give them the Tiller file, while Kline was allowed to make summaries of those files on the day of Morrison’s swearing in as AG (January 8, 2007). But Derscher then admitted Holbrook’s point that there was no way to determine when Kline had made those summaries.
She also revealed that she decided to file an ethics complaint against Kline after the new Attorney General Paul Morrison said in response to a reporter’s question that he thought Kline was unethical in his investigation of Planned Parenthood and late-term abortionist George Tiller.
Derscher also had to explain that she had not performed an immediate inventory of files she received from Kline in January 2007 at the time she filed the ethics complaint against him. Instead the inventory process commenced six months later. Also, the cover of the 60 page spreadsheet inventorying the documents with the abortion medical records was also dated at least a year after she filed the ethics complaint against Kline, according to testimony given on the cross-examination.
In Holbrook’s questioning, she also admitted that no criminal case had been worked up against anybody over the handling of the abortion records - including Jared Reed, the investigator who sought and obtained immunity on advice of his lawyer because he was “nervous” over having kept a box containing redacted abortion records of Tiller’s patients at his apartment/house.
Testimony in the trial revealed the files had been kept at Reed’s domicile for a month (January to February 2007) while Kline transitioned into the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, apparently at the recommendation of investigator Tom Williams who did not believe the DA office was secure during the transition phase.
Kline’s attorney also attacked Derscher’s insistence that the abortion records obtained by Kline were not redacted enough, and the identities of Tiller’s patients could have been known from the redacted records. He quoted Judge David King’s report that Kline did a sufficient redaction to be in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
“Did medical records ever get out in the public domain?” queried Holbrook.
“No,” responded Derscher.
On the security issue, Holbrook pointed out that there had been thefts at the office, and former DA Paul Morrison (the incoming AG) had even installed a pinhole camera in the wall to catch employees stealing from the break room. There was no mention that any evidence or tampering had ever occurred in the evidence locker room.
He also added that Morrison had forbidden the Kline transition team from entering the Johnson county DA’s office until he became AG in January 2007. Derscher said she was “not in the vicinity” when Morrison threw Steve Maxwell, Kline’s lead prosecutor, out of the DA’s office.
Judge King’s findings also showed that Anderson said Kline could share the records with law enforcement, and that his Dec. 21, 2006 order to transfer the files from the AG office to the DA office in Johnson County was a legitimate move.
Holbrook’s cross-examination brought up that Kline’s charges against Tiller were deep-sixed by AG Morrison in favor of other criminal charges prepared by Derscher: the highly technical charges on which Tiller was eventually acquitted. Derscher admitted that the AG’s office conceded “yes” to Tiller’s defense attorneys’ stipulation that the abortion forms filed were correct - a fact Holbrook said lost the AG the case on the illegal late-term abortions.
Kline had pursued Tiller over failing to cite a specific medical reason for performing abortions on post-viable unborn infants past 22 weeks, and his charges stated that Tiller had not followed the law by simply parroting the law’s statutory requirements on the exception form.
Holbrook then asked why Kline was prevented from filing charges against George Tiller. Derscher said that Sedwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston had them dismissed by a judge because Kline lacked jurisdiction. Holbrook then immediately followed up asking how was it then that Morrison had jurisdiction to file his own criminal charges against the abortionist.
“Well, he asked Nola,” Derscher admitted.
“Nothing further,” said Holbrook, wrapping up Derscher’s time on the stand by 3 p.m.
The next witness called to the stand by Hazlett was Phill Kline.