As Johnson County's top prosecutor, Phill Kline has been a disaster.

The Dimwit D.A. 

As Johnson County's top prosecutor, Phill Kline has been a disaster.

Page 7 of 8

· Shalom Tolefree was accused of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm to a woman on May 11, 2006. According to sources familiar with the case, Tolefree struck the victim so hard that he broke her jaw in two places, knocked her out and put her in the hospital for a week. It wasn't Tolefree's first run-in with the law. Court records show that Tolefree pleaded guilty in November 2002 to felony first-degree assault, felony second-degree assault, misdemeanor third-degree assault and felony resisting arrest. Tolefree's conviction history allowed a sentence of up to 13 years in prison. Carpenter reduced the charges to attempted aggravated battery. When Tolefree is sentenced on July 13, he'll likely get about three years.

· On December 24, 2006, Jannise Nathanniel was accused of beating his victim with a belt until it broke, beating her with another belt and throwing a jewelry box at her, according to police reports. Nathanniel was charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm. Carpenter cut a plea deal with Nathanniel on May 14 in which he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser battery charge. Instead of facing six years in prison, Nathanniel will serve about a year and a half.

· No one from Kline's office showed up to a hearing about the possible parole of Michael Peterson, who was convicted in 1984 of first-degree murder for killing a woman in a Christian Science reading room. A member of the District Attorney's Office often tells the three-member parole board why a prisoner should not be released. The Friday before the hearing, an employee reminded Kline, Rucker and Maxwell that Peterson's first parole hearing was scheduled for Monday. But no prosecutors from Kline's office showed up for the hearing. The parole board meets this month to consider releasing Peterson.

· On the night of April 2, Kline's chief investigator, Tom Williams, tried to serve a subpoena at the Stilwell home of Theodore Herzog. When Williams pulled up, Herzog was cleaning a pistol and a shotgun in his garage. Williams, who is not a certified law-enforcement officer, called sheriff's deputies to arrest Herzog. According to a transcript, Williams told the 911 dispatcher, "I'd a [sic] shot him if I had a gun." When deputies found that Herzog had not committed a crime, Maxwell called the Johnson County Sheriff's Office and demanded that deputies arrest Herzog. The next day, a magistrate judge reviewed Herzog's arrest. The judge found that Herzog hadn't committed a crime, and the judge rejected the charge against Herzog. Kline's office then filed an aggravated assault charge against Herzog. Herzog had been scheduled to testify in a DUI case being prosecuted by Maxwell. Maxwell claimed that he did not know the circumstances behind Herzog's arrest, even though court records indicate that Maxwell ordered the arrest. Several lawyers say Maxwell's denials to the court raise ethical questions.

Screw-ups happen in criminal cases, and even competent prosecutors cut deals or dismiss charges when warranted by the evidence. But six months in, several seasoned prosecutors and lawyers say they shouldn't be happening with this frequency.

Though Kline did not comment for this article, his public information officer, Brian Burgess, defends the work of the office's prosecutors. "The bottom line on all of these cases is going to be that these attorneys are going to make the best decision that they have, given the evidence and the facts," Burgess tells the Pitch. "The point is, it's not your place or my place to second-guess the attorneys that are involved and the police officers and the investigators, the judges and the victims, who are all generally consulted on these things."

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