Monday, November 7, 2011

A Johnson County prosecutor is looking for work after lying to a judge

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Steve Howe says Jill Kenney no longer works for him.
  • Steve Howe says Jill Kenney no longer works for him.
A Johnson County assistant district attorney is out of a job after being reprimanded by a Kansas ethics panel for lying to a judge.

Kansas' Office of the Disciplinary Administrator issued an "informal admonition" last month against Jill Kenney for making a false statement to a judge. Kenney, who was the section chief of the traffic unit, received a letter notifying her of the ethics lapse on October 4, nearly a year after the prosecutor had told a mediation judge that she'd personally spoken to a nurse who had drawn blood from a defendant, which wasn't true.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe has confirmed that Kenney was out.

“I can indicate that she is no longer employed with our office,” Howe told The Pitch.

Asked about the circumstances around Kenney’s departure, Howe said he couldn’t elaborate.

Howe’s office initially wouldn’t answer questions about Kenney, issuing several “no comments."

Kenney served under three district attorneys — Paul Morrison, Phill Kline and now Howe — and was promoted to section chief of the traffic unit when Kline took over as district attorney in 2007.

As for an informal admonition, it amounts to a slap on the wrist.

"She would have gotten a letter from the disciplinary administrator's office saying this is a violation and don't do this again," Ron Keefover, spokesman for the Kansas Judiciary, told The Pitch last month. "That’s the end of it. But if there should be a future attorney discipline, this informal admonition could be used in that."

The case in question involved a 72-year-old woman named Hope Talbot, who was involved in a three-car injury accident in March 2008. Talbot was initially charged with two counts of aggravated battery causing bodily harm and DUI.

"The allegation in the informal admonition indicates that she [Kenney] falsely told the mediation judge that she had personally talked to a nurse who had drawn blood from a defendant in a DUI, when she hadn't," Keefover told The Pitch. "Ultimately, the disciplinary administrator's office investigated, and a report and review committee found that she had violated two provisions of Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct — one, making a false statement to a court, and second, which is prejudicial to the administration of justice."

The complaint against Kenney was filed by defense attorney Christina Dunn, who was a member of Talbot's defense team. Dunn didn’t return a call from The Pitch.

In November 2010, Talbot pleaded guilty to three counts of battery and one count of reckless driving. Talbot received six-month consecutive sentences for the batteries and a 90-day concurrent sentence for reckless driving. She was placed on 12 months' probation, fined $500 and ordered to serve 50 hours of community service. She was also required to write a letter of apology to those injured in the crash.

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