t least one Parkville business owner has some harsh criticism of the job performance of the city prosecutor.
Denver Harris, owner of ADH Hitch and Trailer Access along Hwy. 9, emotionally detailed for the Parkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday night multiple occasions of alleged assaults that he says have been ignored by Peter Schloss, prosecutor for Parkville’s municipal court.
“I’m asking for an investigation into the prosecuting attorney for this city. There is not one person on this board or one person on the police department I hold responsible. I hold the prosecuting attorney responsible,” Harris said as he detailed various incidents in which he says he and his wife have been assaulted.
Schloss has refused to press charges in any of the incidents, which have taken place over a period of years.
“I was informed by the police that the prosecuting attorney would never prosecute with me involved again. This has proved to be very true over the years,” Harris said.
The Landmark reached Schloss, who practices from a law office in Liberty, by phone on Wednesday morning. An Internet listing describes him as a mediation services lawyer. Schloss says he has served as Parkville’s prosecutor for more than 20 years and has served the same role for Excelsior Springs for 16 years.
“I can’t discuss specific cases that were dismissed or not prosecuted because that would violate some privacy issues. Generally, I am charged to review cases and I have to review them with an eye toward whether I can establish a case beyond a reasonable doubt and have a reasonable chance of obtaining a conviction,” Schloss told The Landmark.
“If I do not feel there is sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, then I decline to prosecute.”
Schloss added that in those situations where no charges are filed, an alleged victim could still file a civil action against the accused. He said the burden of proof in a civil action would be much smaller in the civil case, and the victim would also have the chance to be awarded damages.
Reports of some growing unrest among Parkville residents with the job performance of the city prosecutor were first reported two weeks ago in The Landmark.
Harris, while offering his thoughts to the aldermen, often had to stop to regain his composure.
“I’m not here to try a case,” Harris told the board of aldermen. “I’m here to tell you what has happened to us.”
Harris said he is permanently disabled from one of the assaults against him, a situation in which he says he was deliberately struck by a female driver of a vehicle.
“My wife has been beat up twice,” Harris continued.
In a written memo to the mayor and board of aldermen obtained by The Landmark, Harris explained in detail some past incidents:
“On July 1, 1999 I was physically assaulted by a female customer who repeatedly hit me with her fists. The police were called when she refused to stop and she was preventing me from re-entering my business. In an attempt to resolve the problem and get her to leave the property, I approached her sister’s vehicle and trailer. When I reached the rear of the vehicle, between the trailer, the sister intentionally hit me with her vehicle and trailer. I have a permanent disability due to this attack. I received severe back and disc damage that resulted in surgery.
“I pressed charges but later discovered the prosecuting attorney had dropped the charges. When I questioned him on why, he told me it was none of my business. I attempted to sue the woman, but she passed away before anything could happen,” Harris wrote.
In another incident, Harris says a male customer was creating a problem during his rental transaction.
“So I stopped his rental and refused to let him take the equipment he wanted. He became verbally and physically violent when he was refused service and was told to leave. The customer struck me with a closed fist, then turned to attack my 17-year-old son. I had to physically restrain the man and in the process I knocked him across the cab of his truck. Again, the charges were dropped and I was informed by the police that the prosecuting attorney would never prosecute with me involved again,” Harris wrote.
Harris says he has been attacked both physically and verbally at least five additional times over the years.
“Every time I have pressed charges against the attacker but each time the charges were dropped by the prosecuting attorney,” Harris said, adding that his wife has been attacked multiple times as well.
“The first incident was after hours. My wife heard a loud banging sound coming from outside. When she stepped out to investigate, she discovered a tenant’s employee hitting a trash container with his truck. She approached his vehicle and realized he was obviously drunk. She attempted to reason with him and asked what he was doing. He opened his door as if he intended to stop but when she reached his driver side door, he quickly slammed the door shut on her arm and began assaulting her with his closed fist. This time the prosecuting attorney threatened my wife and she felt obligated to drop the charges herself,” Harris said. “Soon after this, a co-worker of the man who attacked my wife was in his truck when he saw my company truck pulling out of the parking lot. He quickly sped out onto Hwy. 9 and attempted to provoke my son, who was driving. When both trucks reached the Hwy. 9 and 45 intersection, the assailant pulled around and purposely swerved into the front of my company truck. This incident caused no bodily harm to my son but it did cause over $3,500 worth of damage to my vehicle,” Harris stated.
No charges were filed in that incident, either, Harris said.
“We were led to believe that it was because the man was sent back to prison for a parole violation. I cannot confirm this, though. The prosecuting attorney only told me ‘Mind your own business and stay out of mine.’”
Harris alleges more recently his wife was assaulted by an attorney located in a neighboring building near his property. After a traffic accident–not involving anyone from ADH–Harris says his wife walked to the neighboring building to offer assistance. Harris alleges that when she reached the front door of the business, she was physically attacked and received physical injuries, including bruising and swelling of her arms and shoulders.
“The police were called and reports were taken. We also took pictures of her injuries and took names and contact information from the witnesses present. When the case went to court, I watched as the prosecuting attorney informally listened to the defending party’s testimony. I was then called into his office and was informed that the charges were being dropped,” Harris said.
“The prosecuting attorney (Schloss) refused to listen to my testimony or look at the pictures of my wife’s injuries. I became irate and began yelling and cursing at him. I followed him out into the hallway where he finally responded to my anger. The Parkville police officers who were standing in the hallway stepped in between us and stopped the incident before it escalated too far,” Harris recalled.
“The most recent of all incidents was the last time I had to call police. I was working with a customer when he became angry and began striking me. I called the police and had him removed from my property. The customer admitted to the attack plus my security camera recorded the entire incident. When the officer asked why I was not pressing charges, I told him that the prosecuting attorney would just drop the charges anyway. I felt that it would just be a waste of my time and theirs,” Harris wrote in his letter to the aldermen.
After hearing Harris’ comments, Mayor Gerry Richardson said the board will invite the prosecuting attorney to a future meeting.
“My suggestion is we take (Harris’) comments under advisement. We’ll contemplate our next step. We will invite the prosecuting attorney to give us his thoughts on the matter,” Richardson said.
Schloss indicated to The Landmark on Wednesday morning that he would be willing to appear at a board of aldermen session in the future.
“I would accept the invitation and probably tell them what I’m roughly telling you,” he said.
The mayor invited Harris to be present at the meeting when the prosecutor is in attendance. Harris urged the mayor to be sure police are in attendance at the meeting if he and Schloss are both in the room.
“We will take up at the next meeting what our next step might be,” the mayor said.