Although a judge said defendants in a Sept. 7 stabbing case had reason to expect a confrontation, he rejected arguments that they conspired together to commit crimes.
A judge on Tuesday ordered five Lawrence men to stand trial for their alleged roles in a Sept. 7 fight in which three teen-agers were stabbed.
Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone ordered Michael Scott Blanck, 18, Jason Robert Freeman, 18, Richard Francis Jarrett Jr., 23, Skyland John Love, 18, and James Donald Vick, 18, to be tried on four counts of aiding and abetting aggravated battery. He set separate trial dates for the five men.
Malone dropped a fifth charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, saying that prosecutors hadn't provided enough evidence that the five men agreed beforehand to commit the crimes.
The decisions came at the end of a preliminary hearing for the adult defendants in the case.
Before making his decision, Malone said prosecutors faced a tough task of proving the defendants had a reason to believe the fight would escalate into a stabbing.
"Were the stabbings foreseeable? I don't know. But that's for the jury to determine," Malone said.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Jerry Little refused comment on the case or the judge's comments.
Three of the aiding and abetting charges are linked to the stabbings of Scott Brown, 17, Brandon Masquas, 16, and Dan Weber, 16, whose wounds left him with a partially paralyzed right leg. The fourth aiding and abetting charge is tied to the beating of Erick Wallace, 16, who was injured in the fight at 203 Glenview.
Defense attorneys argued -- and Malone agreed -- that just being at the scene of the fight didn't implicate the defendants. The judge said there was "no question" the defendants went to a party at 203 Glenview to confront members of a rival group. Defense witnesses told the court the defendants did not anticipate the stabbing.
"The only thing the state is showing is these might be party crashers, but the last time I checked, that wasn't a crime in the state of Kansas," said attorney Charles Branson, who is representing Blanck.
William Alan Rector, 17, has been charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder in the case. Several witnesses have named Rector as the only person who stabbed anyone on the night in question.
Branson said he was pleased Malone dropped the conspiracy charge and ordered separate trials for the defendants.
"I think that's the best way to proceed with this," Branson said. "I think a joint trial would be a nightmare" for prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Blanck and Love are free on bond; the rest had their bonds revoked in the weeks following their release because they violated court restrictions.
Malone set the following dates for jury trials in the five cases: Dec. 29, Blanck; Jan. 12, Freeman; Jan. 20, Jarrett; Jan. 26, Vick; and Feb. 2, Love.
Four juveniles in the case have been charged. Hearings for Anna Kimbrell, 16, and Zach Turner, 17, are scheduled for Nov. 20, and a hearing for Sarah Gottlieb, 16, will be Jan. 21.
Prosecutors have filed a motion requesting that Rector be tried as an adult, but no ruling on that motion has been made.
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.