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Complaint filed against prosecutor

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

The father of an assault victim is filing an ethics complaint against Platte County Prosecutor Tammy Glick.

Jim Soendker, a resident of the Parkville area, claims Glick acted negligently by apparently not opposing a probation release for the man convicted of assaulting Soendker's son two years ago.

Soendker also says Glick was negligent by not notifying the Soendker family that an attorney for his son's assailant, Chase Verdoorn, had filed a notice for the early probation release.

In 2000, Verdoorn was convicted of assaulting Jim Soendker's son, Steve, in Platte City. Both were 17 at the time of the assault. Part of Verdoorn's sentencing included a two year probation period. He was sentenced in Platte County Circuit Court Division V by Judge Gary Witt.

Soendker said he put his complaint in the mail last Thursday, sending it to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC).

The OCDC was established by the Supreme Court to investigate ethical complaints against lawyers. The office is funded by Missouri attorney enrollment fees into The Missouri Bar.

In his complaint, Soendker says Glick "did not notify our son of a motion to release his assailant from a two-year probation six months early. In addition, she never requested a hearing or formulated an objection on the motion. It took over six months for our son and our family to learn of the prosecutor's actions. And that was only because the defendant was (allegedly) involved in a criminal act in March of this year."

The Verdoorn assault case in 2000 had been prosecuted by the office of former prosecutor Todd Graves, who now serves as U.S. Attorney. Glick was appointed interim prosecutor last fall after Graves left to accept his federal appointment.

Glick denies any negligence or misconduct on her part. She said once a probation is released, the record is sealed, and determining exactly how the probation release was granted is difficult.

She said it's possible Judge Witt released Verdoorn from probation without a hearing.

"In a misdemeanor case, it's totally the judge's discretion. They don't always hold hearings for them," Glick said, indicating it's possible the probation release was granted by the judge in his chambers and not in the courtroom.

Judge Witt said he is prohibited from making comment because the probation is closed and the case file is closed. He said he could not comment on whether a hearing on the early probation release request was held.

"I can't comment on actions like that," Witt told The Landmark this week.

Glick said she cannot determine if a hearing on the matter was held.

"It doesn't look like we had any notice at all. We have no notice of it being set for a hearing. It looks like somebody had filed the motion and it got added to a docket," Glick said.

Glick said she can find no assistants in her office who recall a hearing being held in the matter. She said Platte County Circuit Clerk Sandy Dowd had told her that she was in the courtroom when the matter came up and that it was objected to by an assistant prosecutor and approved by the judge over the objection by the prosecutor's office.

But again, Glick said she could find no assistant currently on her staff who remembers the hearing and there is no entry written by an assistant prosecutor.

"Am I sure there was a hearing? No," Glick said.

"The only reason that I think the probation release was granted in a courtroom is based on what I was told by Sandy (Dowd), but there's no way of me finding out for sure," Glick remarked.

Soendker said he finds it strange the circuit clerk is being mentioned by the prosecutor.

"Why is Sandy Dowd being brought into this? She's not even a member of the prosecutor's office," Soendker said.

Glick claims there would have been no legal obligation for her office to contact the victim or his family in this case. She said even if they had made contact, her office would have notified the victim directly, not his father, "because (the victim) is over 18."

Soendker said the prosecutor never attempted to contact him or his son, and he said Glick's latest remarks have changed from what she originally told him.

"I'm finding out that she has changed her story two or three times. First she said she had nothing to do with it, that it was all Judge Witt. Then she says Sandy Dowd sat in on a hearing, then I hear she (Glick) is saying she has no record of a hearing. This is extremely questionable. I think the integrity of the office is in question," Soendker said by phone Tuesday.

Glick said she is sympathetic with Soendker's point of view.

"I feel sorry for the guy, but I'm not sure that I'm the person that he should be upset with over this," Glick said this week.

Soendker's response?

"She has done nothing but backpedal. Now she's saying she objected to it and the judge went ahead and approved it. She's blaming the judge. The only person I haven't heard from is Judge Witt," Soendker said.

"At the very least, the judge should have raised the question and held it (the motion requesting early release) until he heard something from the prosecutor's office," he added.

"We aren't 'after' anybody in this. We just want our son's rights protected and want to know why they weren't protected," he said.

"Instead of deflecting blame and pointing back at the judge, Ms. Glick needs to be finding out what went wrong in this process because this is something you just don't let slip through the cracks. You would think she would be very upset with the judge or anyone who let this slip through and make her look bad in an election year," Soendker said.

In other portions of the complaint form filed with the OCDC by Jim Soendker, he writes:

"About one month after Ms. Glick assumed office last year (approximately November 2001) a motion was filed by the defense attorney for Chase A. Verdoorn. It asked for either a reduction or elimination to the probation period. The motion went to Judge Gary Witt and a copy (as required) went to the prosecutor's office. At this point the county prosecutor would normally notify the victim and request a hearing. She allowed the motion to go uncontested. Even Judge Witt, knowing the passion we felt on the case, should have known better. With all his experience and knowledge, he knew this was not normal procedure. To approve this motion in the privacy of an office without a hearing makes me question his integrity and intentions as well as Ms. Glick's," Soendker said in his written complaint.

Soendker also went on to point out what he views as a conflict of interest in the case. He wrote in his complaint:

In a phone interview, Glick defended herself against the allegations of a personal conflict by saying: "We did all go to the same school, but that doesn't mean anything. I went to school with a lot of people."

Once a complaint is filed with the OCDC, the case will be assigned to a disciplinary hearing panel. The panel will hear evidence presented by the Chief Disciplinary Counsel and any evidence submitted by the charged. After this hearing, the Disciplinary Hearing Panel will decide whether a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct has occurred and recommend any of the following actions:

•Dismissal of the case if it finds no violation has occurred;

•Written admonition (become part of the lawyer's record)

•Private or public reprimand.

•Suspension or disbarment.

According to a web page explaining the OCDC operation, the Supreme Court of Missouri will review the recommendation of the Disciplinary Hearing Panel. This may include the preparation of written briefs and oral arguments. The court then will impose appropriate discipline on the lawyer or dismiss the case. The Supreme Court also has the authority, if it so chooses, to review recommendation of the Disciplinary Hearing Panel, even if there has been no appeal.