KANSAS CITY, Kan. — An email out of the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office that’s raising concerns about whether people arrested for crimes are being punished without a conviction.
In Kansas, the law allows police to hold someone who’s suspected of a crime for up to 48 hours while the investigation moves ahead and a prosecutor decides on charges.
But FOX4 Problem Solvers has uncovered an email that raises concern about the way the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office is doing business.
“I would be enraged. I am enraged with it whether or not they are my clients. I am disgusted by this,” said James Spies, a former Wyandotte County assistant district attorney and now defense attorney.
In the email sent at 10:46 a.m. June 12, Wyandotte County Assistant District Attorney Lois Malin told a KCK police detective that right now the DA’s office is not charging most low-level violent felonies, in part to avoid filling up the jail since the court system is at a standstill.
With regards to two people that the detective arrested, Malin wrote: “Unless you know something serious about these guys that isn’t in the affidavit, they will be released when their 48 hours expires — I see no reason to release them earlier — sitting in jail a few hours might make them think twice next time.”
“That is absolutely wrong. The district attorney’s office has decided they are not going to file charges against somebody, and they have a legal obligation to see it to it that that person is released immediately,” Spies said. “And now you have a prosecutor essentially playing judge and jury.”
Lauren Bonds, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas, also has concerns about what was written in that email.
“‘I see no reason to release them earlier,’ sticks out to me because I think the Fourth Amendment is that reason, right?” she said.
Bonds believes keeping someone in custody after deciding they would not be charged is a violation of their civil rights, namely unlawful detention.
“We hear about this a lot in domestic violence cases where they just kind of want the person to cool down,” Bonds said. “That being said, that doesn’t make it constitutional just because we hear about it a lot, and we definitely have never seen it documented in this way where someone is so explicit and unrepentant about the reason that they are choosing to use this 48-hour hold.”
The Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office did not address the email directly, but sent this statement:
“This charging decision involved two defendants. One was not released because he had warrants from another state. The other individual was released within 8 hours of this office having an opportunity to review the case. The affidavit was submitted at 11:15 p.m. about 24 hours after the initial arrest. This office began reviewing this case, along with others, the next workday morning. He was released by 5:04 the same day this office reviewed the case and well before the 48 hour hold expired.”
Bonds hopes the district attorney looks into the issue further.
“I would say it is very concerning, and I think the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office should definitely look into it and make sure that this is is it something that isn’t happening with regularity,” Bonds said.
Both Bonds and Spies believe this could also be an ethics violation on the part of the Wyandotte County DA’s Office. FOX4 reached out to the Disciplinary Administration, which found no disciplinary action against DA Mark Dupre or Lois Malin.