Shawnee Co. DA responds to Watkins’ motion to remove him from case
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW/AP) - The Shawnee County District Attorney’s office has filed a response to Rep. Steve Watkins’ motion, asking a judge to remove from his voter fraud case.
Watkins faces criminal charges that he unlawfully voted in a 2019 Topeka City Council election, and lied to a detective investigating the case.
According to a motion filed last week, Watkins claims the charges are politically motivated. The motion also claims Kagay and Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who is opposing Watkins in the current Congressional primary, shared consultants, which shows a conflict of interest in the case.
Kagay’s office is asking a judge to deny the motion.
“The fact that the Defendant would prefer not to be prosecuted at this time or at all does not entitle him to disqualification of the District Attorney of his office,” the response said.
The response also claims Watkins’ counsel asked assistant DA Charles Kit to delay the investigation because it could impact the election, citing a federal policy which would allow for the action.
“Counsel (for Watkins) expressed their concern about the timing of the investigation and cited to policies of the United State Department of Justice on the issue. Counsel requested that the District Attorney’s Office delay the investigation so as not to affect the election. During the meeting, counsel was assured that, consistent with DOJ policy, which all agreed was not binding on State prosecutors, the District Attorney’s Office would not rush an investigation, nor would the District Attorney’s Office cause delays in an investigation, simply because it was an election year,” the DA’s response stated.
The response gave a detailed timeline of the events. View the entire file HERE.
According to the court record, Watkins told a sheriff’s detective that one of the congressman’s staffers completed the incorrect voter registration form.
“But he did not know which one,” the response added.
Monday’s filing states Watkins initially declined to provide a list of his staffers, and the sheriff’s department obtained subpoenas from a judge in June. The filing said Watkins’ lawyer asked on June 30 to be present when Watkins staffers were interviewed even though he did not represent them because Watkins is their employer.
Watkins provided the district attorney’s office with two unidentified staffers’ names on July 10, according to the deputy district attorney’s filing. Four days later, the district attorney’s office learned that the attorney representing the two staffers was not available and would be on a two-week vacation. Kagay filed the criminal charges against Watkins that day.
Kagay’s office also responded to the claim of a conflict of interest in the case because Kagay and LaTurner shared consultants.
“The fact that the Defendant has political opponents who essentially shop at the same store as the District Attorney does not impugn the District Attorney’s motives or his fairness and it does not establish that the Defendant is unlikely to be treated fairly as the case progresses,” the response states.
Watkins’ campaign responded to Kagay’s response, saying LaTurner and Kagay are colluding and will be exposed.
“At this rate, Jake LaTurner should consider putting the Shawnee County DA on his campaign payroll,” Watkins Campaign Spokesman Bryan Piligra said. “It’s no surprise that LaTurner and his cronies in the prosecutor’s office would twist the truth to cover up the collusion and corruption that is becoming obvious in this case. We look forward to exposing the truth about their Adam Schiff-styled politics here in Kansas.”
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