Note: LifeSiteNews.com reporter Peter Smith is attending the hearings in Kansas this week. This article will be updated periodically throughout the day as the case unfolds.
TOPEKA, Kansas, February 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Opening arguments have ended in the ethics case against a former Kansas attorney general, who was attacked after pursuing lawsuits against both Planned Parenthood and late-term abortionist George Tiller. His office says it discovered a host of incriminating evidence suggesting widescale cover-up of child rape and other evasions of the law.
The trial against former state attorney Phill Kline commenced at approximately 9:30am CST, and opening statements concluded at about 11am. Stan Hazlett, the disciplinary administrator from the Kansas ethics board, explained that they would be dropping the charge that Phill Kline’s position on abortion caused him to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. Prosecutors will still argue, however, that Kline’s attitude was prejudicial on other counts.
During his opening statement, Kline’s attorney, Reid Holbrook, made repeated references to the complaint filed by Hazlett, which showed substantial similarities and even occasional word-for-word identity with a complaint filed by Dan Monnat, the attorney for slain late-term abortionist George Tiller, who was also subject to investigation by Kline’s office.
Holbrook also reminded the panel of three judges that they will also be fact-finders in the case and that they will have an opportunity to see the evidence for themselves. Hazlett stated that the facts would show that Kline and his subordinates, both lawyer and non-lawyer, were not truthful in all their conduct regarding the investigation of Planned Parenthood and George Tiller.
Holbrook, who began his case with an illustration of the history of Kline’s legal career, stated that “nothing could be further from the truth” to say that Kline was solely concerned with pursuing alleged criminal activity by abortion providers.
Update: Feb. 21, 2011 at 3:16 EST
Before opening arguments began, Hazlett had attempted to oust attorney Tom Brejcha, president of the pro-life Thomas More Society, who was present in the courtroom as an observer. After Holbrook argued that Brejcha’s presence made no difference as he was not part of the case, the panel concluded that there was “no problem” with Brejcha’s attendance.
Holbrook said during his opening statement that several Kansas judges, including Judges David J King, Clark Owens, and Richard Anderson, have already vindicated Kline from the same charges that Hazlett was needlessly rehashing.
Holbrook also showed on a screen projected images of Hazlett’s complaint side-by-side with the motion to dismiss authored by Tiller’s attorney, which Holbrook said showed a “clear pattern” of Hazlett plagiarizing the latter document. Hazlett objected based on relevance, but withdrew the objection when Holbrook argued that it was permissible in the context of an opening statement.
Following opening arguments, Hazlett called the first witness to the stand, Veronica Dersch, a former assistant Attorney General under former Kansas AG Paul Morrison, who took over the office after Kline. She testified that Kline’s office took 29 Planned Parenthood medical files and their copies, and other related documents, when he left the post in 2006.
Dersch, who said she found a Kinko’s bill as evidence that Kline’s office had also copied records obtained from George Tiller, said she found the process “shady.” In addition, she claimed that patient identities could be deduced from comparing records from the Kansas Department of Public Health and Environment, where names were redacted, with customer records from the La Quinta hotels, both of which Kline had in his possession but were not stored in a secure location.
The witness is to be cross-examined after the end of a lunch break at 1:40pm CST.