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Archive for Thursday, October 16, 2003

Jury splits on motel beating

Defendant convicted of robbery, kidnapping but not attempted murder

October 16, 2003

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Scott Lee Staggs robbed and kidnapped an American Indian man earlier this year during a racially charged attack at a North Lawrence motel but didn't try to kill him, jurors decided Wednesday.

A Douglas County District Court jury of six men and six women deliberated for roughly 10 hours before acquitting Staggs, a 34-year-old transient, of attempted murder. They found him guilty of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and aggravated kidnapping in the March 10 attack on 21-year-old Josh Greemore at the Jayhawk Motel, 1004 N. Third St.

Ten law-enforcement officers stood around the courtroom as the jury delivered its verdict. In Staggs' seven months in custody, he's threatened a prosecutor and his own attorney during court proceedings, was convicted of aggravated assault and battery on a law-enforcement officer, and has been charged with throwing bodily waste at jail officers, whom he claims treat him unfairly because some are American Indians.

But Staggs was calm and silent throughout reading of the verdict, reacting only by nodding his head slightly at times.

According to police testimony, Staggs and his four co-defendants in the attack had come to town that day because Staggs was jumping bond in Emporia and had a sister near Lawrence. Greemore, of Mayetta, was staying two doors down and visiting a family member who attends Haskell Indian Nations University.

Lawrence Police Detective Jack Cross testified that one of the co-defendants, Jeremy S. Harris, told him after his arrest that Staggs was the "head honcho" of the group and came up with the idea to rob and beat Greemore, who had overstayed his welcome while drinking beer late at night in their motel room. Cross also testified Harris told him someone asked Greemore shortly before the beating if he was a "wetback."

But Harris, 25, who said he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, changed his story earlier this week when he took the stand. He testified that Staggs had a more limited role in the attack and denied making statements contained in Cross' report.

Staggs testified in his defense that he only kicked Greemore and didn't strike him in the head with an unopened beer can, as Harris initially told police.

Harris, of Guthrie, Okla., pleaded guilty last month to aggravated kidnapping. Among the other defendants, Leslie T. Howe and Sara M. Bruce were convicted earlier of aggravated battery, and James A. Keezer is scheduled to go on trial Dec. 9. Howe, Bruce and Keezer are all of Emporia.

Staggs' sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 3.

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