Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Prosecutors seek prison time for ex-mayor

June 13, 2001

By Joshua Roberts

Leavenworth County prosecutors want to secure additional prison time for former Basehor mayor John Pfannenstiel.

Deborah Owens, Leavenworth County victim-witness coordinator, said the state is seeking the additional time because of the severity of Pfannenstiel's crimes.

"He (Pfannenstiel) was in a position of authority and he abused that authority," Owens said. "He knew what he was doing and used his power over another person."

Pfannenstiel was convicted March 23 in Leavenworth County District Court of three counts of having sexual relations with inmates while he was a corrections officer at Lansing Correctional Facility. He was acquitted on a charge of bringing contraband into a correctional facility.

Pfannenstiel was to be sentenced last Friday. However, prosecutors requested a continuance so they could research the possibility of extended prison time. A judge rescheduled the sentencing hearing for July 13.

Under Kansas sentencing guidelines, Pfannenstiel's three convictions call for a prison term of five months to seven months, and with no criminal background, Pfannenstiel is a candidate for probation.

According to Owens, the sentence the state is seeking would be more than two years to be served at an out-of-state facility. However, prosecutors face a potential road block. The United States and Kansas supreme courts have ruled that tacking on additional prison time, outside of what laws dictate, is unconstitutional in most circumstances.

At the July court hearing, prosecutor Roger Marrs plans to present research based on several cases involving sentencing departures. He hopes his research will persuade the court to make an exception with Pfannenstiel.

Defense attorney Terry Lober said upward departures in sentencing are unconstitutional and the prosecution efforts are frivolous.

"I don't know what there is to research," Lober said. "There is no way around it."

The prosecution's request is another setback in a long line of disappointments for the defense.

Last month, in an attempt to receive a new trial, the defense produced a document that recants the trial testimony of the three inmates who accused Pfannenstiel of sexual misconduct.

Charles "Opie" Jones, the main inmate who said he and Pfannenstiel had sexual encounters at Lansing, reportedly signed a document that states he and two other inmates made up the accusations. Jones said he and the inmates fabricated the stories so they could sue the Kansas Department of Corrections and Pfannenstiel.

An expert witness testified during a post trial hearing to the authenticity of the document. However, the judge denied the defense a new trial, saying Lober should have offered the document during trial.

Pfannenstiel has said he will appeal. However, if the prosecution secures an extended prison term, Pfannenstiel could serve his entire sentence before that appeal is heard, Owen said.

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