Archive for Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Burglary suspect pleads guilty

Mother says race factors into plea; police offer fingerprint evidence

April 20, 2004


A Lawrence man who claimed police unfairly targeted him because of his race has entered a guilty plea in connection with two burglaries at young women's apartments near Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive.

"We did not buy into the argument that he was simply being targeted by law enforcement because of the color of his skin," Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney said. "We believed that the evidence would support law enforcement's conclusions and our decision to file charges against him, and it did."

But the mother of defendant Brian K. Charles still maintains her son is innocent. She said he entered the plea only because he wanted to reduce his potential prison time and knew he wouldn't get a fair trial before a jury.

"There's no way in hell that as a young black man you would ever get a (expletive) fair trial in Lawrence, Kansas," mother Avis Charles said.

Brian Charles, 20, pleaded guilty Friday to breaking into one apartment and to inappropriately touching a woman in another apartment early Nov. 3, 2003, at a complex in the 3800 block of Clinton Parkway. As part of the deal, Kenney's office dropped one count of aggravated burglary and agreed not to try Charles again in a 2002 burglary in the same neighborhood. That trial ended last month with a hung jury on the most serious charges.

Charles characterized himself as a victim of police harassment and often shook his head in disbelief at prosecutors' allegations in court. But he faced a damning piece of evidence in the November burglaries: Police testified that his fingerprint was found at the scene of one of the burglaries.

Avis Charles suggested that police lied under oath about the fingerprint.

"I don't think it came from where they say it came from," she said.

Charles' defense attorney, Martin Miller, said the fingerprint evidence was a "very significant" factor in plea negotiations, along with the fact that one of the victims had given police a firm identification of Charles.

Asked whether the plea means Charles is taking responsibility for the crimes, Miller said: "The plea speaks for itself."

"It was not an easy plea for him to enter, I know that," Miller said.

Charles faces more than a decade in prison and will be sentenced April 30.

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