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Former Riverside judge charged with possession of cocaine

Prosecutor Zahnd returns money suspect had given to his campaign

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A former Riverside municipal judge who may have tried to manipulate the legal system recently on a DWI charge now faces new trouble with the law.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd on Thursday charged Charles M. McKeon, 48, with possessing cocaine after he left the scene of an accident while drunk.

The new charge comes within two weeks after McKeon pled guilty to driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident in Kansas City Municipal Court.
Zahnd said his office filed the felony charge against McKeon after receiving reports and a probable cause statement from the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.

As reported in the May 4 issue of The Landmark, McKeon's DWI charge was supposed to be heard in state court, not in Kansas City municipal.

Zahnd said, “The entire Feb. 26 incident involving Mr. McKeon was supposed to be handled as one case filed by my office. Even though that cannot now occur, we will proceed with the remaining felony drug possession charge.”

According to court documents, McKeon was arrested Feb. 26 at about 1:25 a.m. following a hit and run accident at the McDonald’s restaurant located at 64th Street and Prairie View Road in Platte County.

McKeon allegedly left the restaurant after hitting another person’s vehicle. The victim’s brother followed McKeon in another vehicle to the On the Border restaurant at 8340 Roanridge.

When police arrived, an officer smelled what court records say was “the strong odor of alcohol” on McKeon’s breath. The officer also observed McKeon having apparent trouble with his balance. McKeon refused to take a field sobriety test but was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

When police searched McKeon’s vehicle, they found an off-white rock-like substance in the seams of the driver’s seat. The substance tested positive at the scene for cocaine, and, according to court records, a May 2 report concluded the substance contained cocaine.

McKeon was taken to the Kansas City Police Department’s North Patrol Detention Facility, where he allegedly refused to cooperate in any way regarding his booking or completion of an Alcohol Influence Report.

Court documents indicate McKeon was given the opportunity to call a lawyer but refused to do so. He then asked to use a restroom, where he allegedly started consuming large amounts of water from the sink in an attempt to disrupt the alcohol breath test.

A police officer asked McKeon twice to stop, but McKeon refused. The officer then grabbed McKeon’s arm to pull him away from the sink.

According to court records, McKeon then slammed his head against the door frame and collapsed on the floor as if he was injured. He was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital on Barry Road, where he allegedly pretended as if he was unconscious while in the presence of any police officer but would converse and immediately become alert when police officers left the room.

On two occasions, McKeon allegedly was talking with medical staff and then suddenly fell back onto the bed when he saw a police officer.

Court records indicate that toxicology reports from the hospital showed the presence of cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol in McKeon’s system. According to the records, McKeon’s blood alcohol content was .289.

McKeon pled guilty on April 28 to driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident in Kansas City Municipal Court, where he received probation.

Zahnd said he was disturbed when he learned of McKeon’s guilty plea in city court because there had been an agreement between Zahnd’s office and the municipal prosecutor’s office that all matters arising out of that night would be forwarded to Zahnd’s office for charges.

Zahnd said, “I believed Mr. McKeon was aware of that decision, and I am disappointed something else occurred. However, we will now address the remaining felony cocaine possession charge at the State level.”

City Prosecutor Beth Murano indicated in a written statement to The Landmark at the time that she did not know about McKeon’s municipal court plea before it occurred.

“Our agreement with the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office was to file all charges as state cases through Platte County,” Murano said. “Without my knowledge, two cases arising out of the incident of February 26 were added to the docket last Friday.”

Previous news stories have reported that McKeon had been the judge of the Riverside Municipal Court for about 12 years until he resigned the day after his arrest.

Zahnd also said on April 29 his campaign committee returned a $300 contribution McKeon had made more than three years ago. Zahnd’s treasurer returned the contribution the day after McKeon’s plea in municipal court.

Zahnd said he reviewed the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys and the National District Attorneys Association’s National Prosecution Standards to determine whether it was a conflict of interest for him to prosecute the case. The rules revealed no conflict existed.

Zahnd said, “No prosecutor looks forward to prosecuting a former judge, but I took an oath to uphold the laws of this state when I took office. It is a sad day for the entire court system when a former judicial official becomes a criminal defendant, but I will do my duty in this case.”

A warrant was issued for McKeon’s arrest, and his bond was set at $2500. If convicted of the possession charge, McKeon faces up to seven years in prison



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