Topeka Controversy over Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's pursuit of abortion records in a secret inquisition reignited Thursday.
Kline, a Republican, held a news conference saying his inquisition helped lead to the arrest of a 21-year-old Topeka man for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl in Marshall County.
But Kline refused to answer whether the case specifically stemmed from his request for medical records of 90 women and girls from two abortion clinics, including one in Wichita run by Dr. George Tiller.
Lee Thompson, an attorney representing Tiller's clinic, said the records in the Marshall County case were not part of records sought by Kline in the inquisition.
"The records, subpoenaed pursuant to the inquisition, from my client have not yet been turned over to the attorney general of Kansas. The court is still performing its review pursuant to the direction of the Supreme Court," Thompson said.
Thompson was referring to an order earlier this year by the Kansas Supreme Court that told Shawnee County District Court Judge Richard Anderson, who is presiding over the inquisition, to make sure that patients' privacy rights are maintained before the records can be reviewed.
The inquisition controversy has been prominent in Kline's campaign for re-election. His challenger, Democrat Paul Morrison, and other critics have said that Kline was using the inquisition for political purposes, as a fishing expedition, and to advance his anti-abortion agenda.
- KSAg.org audio clip: Phill Kline on the beginning of Operation PADLOC III
- KSAg.org audio clip: Phill Kline on the evidence used for the first arrests
- Truth in question at latest AG debate (09-25-06)
- Political use of churches blasted (09-21-06)
- Upcoming chat with Phill Kline (submit a question early)
- Campaign Briefing blog
- More in Election 2006
Morrison has repeatedly challenged Kline's assertion that the inquisition has produced prosecutions.
On Thursday, Morrison's campaign dismissed Kline's statements about the Marshall County case.
"Phill Kline knows this case has nothing to do with his inquisition into the private medical records of 90 Kansans, " Morrison campaign spokesman Mark Simpson said. "It is disingenuous to try to distract Kansans from his serious invasion of privacy by referring to unrelated cases."
Kline, an ardent abortion opponent has defended the inquisition, saying the subpoena of medical records was necessary to investigate allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions.
Kline focused on the Marshall County case to publicize a revived program to catch parole violators and fugitives.
The 21-year-old man turned himself in when he learned that authorities from the state were on his trail, according to Marshall County Atty. Brian Carroll, who stood by Kline during the news conference.
Authorities have accused the man of three counts of unlawful conduct with a 14-year-old girl, including an allegation he had sex with her. He remains in the Marshall County Jail awaiting a preliminary trial hearing.
"The evidence leading to the investigation ... was obtained partially through our inquisition from abortion records," Kline said.
But when pressed, Kline refused to provide much more detail.
"You guys know that I can't get into that without these clinics screaming to high heaven that somehow I am violating a gag order," Kline said.
The man's attorney, James Heathman, of Topeka, said he didn't want to comment on Kline's statements.
"I'd prefer not to comment on anything on the case at this point," Heathman said.
He noted that his client turned himself in last week.
"He wanted to get this moving and cleared as soon as possible," Heathman said.
The charges stemmed from a March 17 incident in which the accused took the girl to a hotel in Marysville, according to the complaint from Marshall County authorities.
But Kline said his office was alerted to alleged problems from an abortion record on an earlier date.
Kline later indicated that the medical record at the center of the case came from Tiller's clinic.
But Tiller's attorney Thompson said it definitely did not come from the 90 records that were the subject of the fight before the state Supreme Court.
He said the clinic routinely turns over records to law authorities "in appropriate cases where requests are narrow and defined."
He described Kline's request for the 90 records as "blunderbuss."
Sherriene Jones, a spokeswoman for Kline, later said once investigators in the attorney general's office saw the medical record in the Marshall County case, they notified authorities there who were already looking for the suspect because of a later incident.
Kline also referenced another case of alleged rape - this one in Parsons - as evidence that the inquisition is paying off in criminal prosecutions, but again did not comment on whether it was related to the subpoenaed medical records that were in dispute before the state Supreme Court.
"We've gathered evidence from numerous sources as it relates to our investigation," Kline said.
It is the Journal-World's policy to not name those accused of sex crimes unless they are convicted.