A disciplinary hearing against former Kansas prosecutor Phill Kline kicked off yesterday with all the intensity expected when the matter of abortion is involved. Kline is being charged with ethics violations related to his investigation of abortion abuses during his tenures as State Attorney General and Johnson County District Attorney from 2003-2007.
Disciplinary Administrator Stan Hazlett, who is prosecuting what promises to be the longest disciplinary hearing of its kind ever held in Kansas, revealed that the ethics case against Kline was initiated by complaints from political enemies of Kline’s including Dan Monnat, an attorney who was representing late-term abortionist George Tiller of Wichita, who was the one of the subjects of Kline’s investigations along with Planned Parenthood of Overland Park.
In opening arguments, Kline’s attorney Reid Holbrook noted instance after instance where Hazlett’s charges against Kline “parroted” Monnat’s motion to dismiss the Tiller case filed by Kline’s successor. In that motion, Monnat laid out a wild conspiracy theory suggesting misconduct by Kline. Those accusations were generally discredited by witnesses. Judge Clark Owens found no merit to Monnat’s fanciful theories and sent the case on to trial.
Old Political Grudges Resurface
Another complainant was former Assistant Attorney General Veronica Dersch, who took the stand yesterday morning to testify against Kline. She worked closely with Kline’s political opponent, Paul Morrison, who waged a bitter campaign against Kline during his re-election bid as Attorney General in 2006. Morrison’s campaign was heavily funded by Tiller and other abortion supporters. However, Morrison was later forced to resign after he was caught in a sordid sex and abortion corruption scandal wherein he attempted to use his illicit lover in the Johnson County District Attorney’s office to help him impede Kline’s abortion investigation.
Dersch had been a previous employee of Morrison’s who followed him to the Attorney General’s office, where she was assigned to the abortion inquisition that was begun by Kline.
Dersch appeared to continue to hold on to the old Morrison political grudge against Kline and used every opportunity to employ prejudicial language whenever possible. She had to be stopped from filibustering when asked simple yes or no questions.
Dersch said she was the one who gathered the investigative files and ultimately made the decision to “clear” Planned Parenthood under the Morrison administration and charge Tiller with the weak case of which he was later acquitted. Morrison held a press conference to announce the charges against Tiller during which he accused Kline of acting unethically. Dersch testified that after that press conference, she called Stan Hazlett and asked him if he saw it on television. She said Hazlett said that he did and asked Dersch to write a complaint letter against Kline.
Kline Grilled, Says Tactics Sound
Kline adamantly disputes the charges and took the stand for nearly three and a half hours to answer questions about his investigation, which began as a look into public allegations that incidents of child sex abuse were not being properly reported to authorities and expanded to include illegal abortion as the investigation progressed.
Hazlett questioned Kline extensively about allegations that his investigator, Tom Williams, deceived Social Rehabilitation Services (SRS) to get information from them. Kline responded that in a criminal investigation, law enforcement in under no obligation to reveal the full scope of an investigation and that, in fact, such a revelation could damage such a case. Kline said his tactics were sound ones used frequently by law enforcement. He noted that undercover investigations routinely use deception and subterfuge to gather evidence in criminal cases.
Kline also pointed out that Judge Owens, after hearing this same allegation in the Tiller motion to dismiss ruled that he did not believe that Williams was deceptive, but it would have been acceptable if he was in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation.
Toxic Political Climate
“At that time in Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, a radical supporter of abortion, had created a toxic political climate that not only protected abortionists, but sought to vilify and ruin the careers of those who attempted to expose abortion abuses,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, who helped expose Sebelius’ close ties to Planned Parenthood and Tiller, both of which were under investigation by Kline. “Sebelius had made appointments to the Board of Healing Arts, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and other agencies that would reflect her political agenda to protect abortionists from accountability under the law.”
Kline told Hazlett that he was concerned that the Sebelius Administration would resist the investigation if they understood the full scope of it.
Hazlett also took Kline to task for not immediately informing Judge Richard Anderson, who was overseeing Kline’s investigations, that SRS had supplied investigator Tom Williams with false information. Kline’s staff had taken the information supplied by SRS to Judge Anderson and sought subpoenas in order to further understand the data. About a week later, Williams learned that the data supplied by SRS was flawed. The next time they went before Judge Anderson for a subpoena about seven months later, Kline’s staff informed Anderson that the information was flawed. Hazlett indicated he was of the opinion that Kline should have gone immediately to inform Anderson and aggressively questioned Kline about this difference of opinion.
The O’Reilly Factor
Kline was also asked extensively about his appearance on the O’Reilly Factor program in October, 2006. Kline was on the program because he had just received the redacted abortion records that he had requested from Tiller and Planned Parenthood in 2003. The matter of finally getting the records garnered national attention.
Hazlett played the portion of the program discussing the abortion issue and questioned Kline over O’Reilly’s use of “inflammatory” language, even though those comments were O’Reilly’s alone, and not Kline’s. Kline indicated that his remarks addressed a larger public debate and did not violate any ethical rules or admonitions by the Supreme Court to refrain from making public comments that would imperil the privacy of patients or law enforcement objectives.
When Kline heard Mr. O’Reilly tell viewers that he had an inside source and had seen the records, Kline said he immediately launched an investigation and found that O’Reilly did not in fact have access to the redacted records that Kline had just received from the abortion clinics.
Hazlett accused Kline of making remarks on that program that could have influenced a jury pool. Those allegations have since been proven to be an unfounded concern since Tiller was eventually tried and acquitted by a jury even though there was much media attention given nationally and locally concerning Kline’s appearance and O’Reilly’s statements.
Hearings to Continue
The hearing continues today and is expected to run into next week. Witnesses that are scheduled to appear include, Monnat, Williams, Kline’s former Chief of Staff Eric Rucker, and two investigators with Hazlett’s office that issued a report in 2008 clearing Kline of the current ethics charges against him. That report was buried by Hazlett and only surfaced during discovery in this case.
Only 16 members of the public are allowed to attend the hearings at any given time and must report at 7 am to receive a ticket on a first come, first serve basis. Between 20 and 30 people who hoped to attend were turned away from the hearings on Monday. The Disciplinary Administrator’s office has come under criticism for not making arrangements to accommodate the public interest in this case, which has drawn national attention.
Planned Parenthood still faces 107 criminal charges filed by Kline in 2007. It is thought that the current case against Kline is an attempt to discredit his investigation with the hope that it will cause the dismissal of the case against Planned Parenthood. Three judges have already ruled there is probable cause to believe Planned Parenthood committed the crimes.
Operation Rescue plans to return to the hearings later this week.