Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Basehor mayor’s trial begins

March 21, 2001

By Joshua Roberts

A jury trial for Basehor Mayor John Pfannenstiel got under way this week in Leavenworth County District Court.

Pfannenstiel faces charges of having sexual encounters with inmates while he was a guard at the Lansing State Correctional Facility.

In an opening statement on Monday in Leavenworth County District Court, prosecutor Roger Marrs said the investigation into the alleged activity stemmed from statements given by inmates on Pfannenstiel's work crew. Pfannenstiel was supervisor of the work crew for the protective custody unit at Lansing, where he served as a guard for 15 years.

Three inmates on that work crew will testify they had repeated sexual encounters with the former guard, said Marrs, Leavenworth County assistant county attorney. Based on the inmates' statements, Marrs said, a decision was made to conduct audio surveillance of the work area, where the alleged encounters occurred.

Two of the inmates were wired with recording devices.

Marrs, while admitting the tapes are hard to hear, said Pfannenstiel can be heard making comments of a sexual nature to inmates.

Those tapes were sent to a forensic audio expert, along with a sample of Pfannenstiel's voice, in order to confirm the defendant's voice is on the tape.

In his opening statement, Pfannenstiel's attorney Terry Lober said the prosecution's case against Pfannenstiel stems from statements made by three convicted felons and nothing more.

"This case is about the testimony of three inmates against a correctional officer," Lober said. "Most, if not every bit, of that testimony is contested and all of it is uncorroborated."

Lober told the 10-man, two-woman jury that the case against Pfannenstiel is a conspiracy concocted by the three inmates, who were looking for a big payday.

"Those inmates entered into an understanding or conspiracy to sacrifice the reputation and criminal record of an otherwise upstanding citizen in order to sue him for money," Lober said. "The plan is get him convicted, get him discredited and then sue him."

Lober said that within a matter of weeks after the case was filed, the three inmates retained an attorney in order to file a civil lawsuit.

The first prosecution witness took the stand Tuesday morning.

Roger Bonner, chief investigator for the Lansing Correctional Facility, testified to the following:

Charles Jones, an inmate at Lansing, tested positive for cocaine and marijuana while in prison. Jones faced having his privileges and visitation rights taken away. He went to the prison investigation department in August, Bonner said, and told investigators that Pfannenstiel had used his influence to have sex with him and that Pfannenstiel also gave Jones a watch battery and allowed him to keep a pair of unauthorized blue jeans.

Jones is to testify later in the week.

The sexual encounters went on for several months in 2000, Jones told investigators, who tried several times to tape record Pfannenstiel, after Jones came forward.

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