KANSAS CITY, KAN. A federal judge has thrown out a case against two former Merriam residents who were fugitives for more than 14 years, saying the men's right to a speedy trial had been violated.
The arrest in February in New Mexico of Gregory Rose and his brother Geoffrey Rose was hailed as an example of how errant suspects can be tracked down.
But Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil ruled in favor of the brothers. She cited, in part, the 14-year delay between the filing of the sealed indictments against them and their arrest, and government negligence in apprehending the men.
Vratil granted the brothers' request to dismiss the indictments on drug, explosives and weapons charges.
Prosecutors have filed a motion to stay the court's rulings so they have time to consider whether to appeal. The brothers are still in custody.
Carl Cornwell, the attorney for Geoffrey Rose, said he had sent at least two letters volunteering to surrender the brothers before the indictments were filed in 1991. He said he never heard back from prosecutors.
"Obviously we couldn't be more thrilled with the ruling," said Jackie Rokusek, the attorney for Gregory Rose. "There was no possible hope for a fair and speedy trial with the time frame we were looking at" between execution of the search warrant and the Roses' arrests.
U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren will review the judge's opinion and evaluate how to proceed, said Kena Rice, a spokeswoman for his office.
Cornwell said even if the rulings stood, the brothers may face state charges in New Mexico.
"We are ready" to work with the prosecutor's office there, Cornwell said. The Rose brothers made headlines in the early 1980s when they were accused of plotting to blow up the Overland Park Police Department. They were acquitted of those charges.
Not long after that, they were sentenced to 10 years on federal firearms violations. Their sentences were reduced, and Geoffrey Rose received probation.
According to Vratil's rulings, agents from federal and local law enforcement agencies searched the two brothers' home in Merriam in January 1990. The agents recovered weapons, explosives and a marijuana-growing operation, according to the rulings. The two remained at the house during the search and officers did not arrest them.
Cornwell said he contacted the U.S. attorney's office two days later, offering to voluntarily surrender the two brothers if a grand jury returned indictments. He said he contacted prosecutors again in May 1990 to set up a meeting to discuss the case, and once more that September to see which prosecutor had been assigned to the case.
In her rulings, Vratil found that while the defendants might have been avoiding arrest, the government failed to respond to their offer to voluntarily surrender and failed to ask their mother about their location.
The government's attempts to locate the two men were "lackadaisical at best," Vratil wrote.