Archive for Thursday, January 10, 2008

Victim: Deal violates rights

County attorney reduced charges in sexual assault case

January 10, 2008


Jennie Schmidt says her rights as a victim of a violent crime were violated.

She hopes to have a chance later today to tell that to a Jefferson County judge.

Schmidt's estranged husband, Chris Schmidt, was arrested for sexually assaulting Jennie Schmidt last May following an incident at their former Perry home. He was charged with rape, sodomy, kidnapping and some misdemeanors.

In a plea bargain last fall, Jefferson County Attorney Mike Hayes reduced the charges to one count of aggravated battery and a misdemeanor charge of criminal damage to property. Chris Schmidt pleaded no contest to those charges and will be sentenced this afternoon by Jefferson County Judge Gary Nafziger.

Jennie Schmidt said she was not told by Hayes about the plea bargain until she made her own inquiries by letter. In fact, Schmidt said, Hayes has never talked to her in person about the case, despite repeated requests.

"I was never involved in any of it," Jennie Schmidt said. "Never, ever has he talked to me."

Jennie Schmidt said she was told via letter from Hayes that the original charges would be difficult to prove, based on his experience as a Jefferson County prosecutor. He said she voluntarily consumed alcohol and voluntarily took her clothes off, and that she had no physical injuries from the incident.

Jennie Schmidt was incredulous, noting her estranged husband ripped off some of her clothes and she removed the rest, out of fear. "For him to say that there is no evidence to support (her charges), he's just blind," she said.

A Lawrence hospital clinical note possessed by Schmidt lists pictures of her injuries taken by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and other evidence of physical injuries.

Sheriff's Detective Kirk Vernon, who investigated Schmidt's case, said he has talked with Hayes at length numerous times about the case.

"I'm fully convinced Mr. Hayes understands all the facts of the case," Vernon said. "That would be up to Mr. Hayes to explain or not explain reasons for doing what he's done."

Hayes didn't return a phone message left for him Wednesday afternoon. An employee in his office said not to expect a return call because Hayes doesn't discuss cases with the media.

On May 19, Jennie Schmidt agreed to meet with Chris Schmidt and a real estate agent at their former house, which was up for sale. Jennie Schmidt signed some papers. The agent left. Jennie Schmidt said she stayed at Chris' request to talk about their three young children. They each started drinking a beer out on the porch, a beer she said she didn't finish. She said she became uncomfortable with the conversation and started to leave. That's when Chris Schmidt forced her into the house and into the bedroom. She said she was raped and a rope was wrapped around her neck.

After the attack, Jennie Schmidt said it appeared Chris Schmidt was going to allow her to leave but attacked her again as she tried to get away in a truck. She said she fought and screamed and ended up being strapped to the bed where she was assaulted again. She said Chris also talked about killing her and himself.

"I was in fear of my life," she said.

Jennie Schmidt said she was able to call some friends, and she talked Chris Schmidt into allowing her to drive them both to Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Jennie Schmidt met her friends there and police were called.

After learning about the plea bargain and receiving Hayes' letters, Jennie Schmidt called the Kansas Attorney General's Office and complained about Hayes' handling of the case. She talked several times with Dorothy Stucky-Halley, the office's statewide victim's rights coordinator.

"We take these complaints very seriously and we did follow up on them with the Jefferson County attorney," said Frances Gorman, spokeswoman for the attorney general. "We didn't determine that further action from our office was needed. We have to be invited, and we have not received an invitation in the case."

Typically, the attorney general can't assist or take over a case unless requested, or unless there is malfeasance involved or a public official is being harmful or contrary to law.

This isn't the first time victims have complained about how Hayes has treated them.

In a 2006 Journal-World story, another woman, Tara Balch, complained about how she was treated by Hayes after she was battered by her then-boyfriend.

"It was a full-out beating," she said then. "I was literally and legitimately scared for my life."

Balch was upset when Hayes gave her boyfriend a chance to apply for diversion and have the charges dropped.

"The prosecuting attorney seemed to think that it was two drunken people hitting each other," Balch told the Journal-World. "He told me he was dropping charges, and I began to cry. . .. He said this was his policy - to drop charges on the first offense."

Hayes also declined at the time to discuss that case.


gvermooten 10 years, 2 months ago

Judging by this story, something needs to be done about Hayes. Promptly.

mscynners 10 years, 2 months ago

No threats, accusations or insults intended. A view based upon surviving abuse and years of volunteering in the field. A person who chooses not to relate to such cases could be suspect to having personal reasons/involvement with the issue.

I state again, no accusations here simply my first thoughts upon reading the story.

freeordie 10 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like her word against his. They have to go by evidence. If she stayed, consumed alcohol (oh the horror) and didn't have any marks...It certainly dosen't mean the guy is innocent by any means BUT. Women have been known, on extremely rare occasions to use the law as a weapon and to lie and regret things. So I've heard.

Bud Stagg 10 years, 2 months ago

Contact the Attorney General? Paul Morrison??? The one who just resigned for having an affair with a co-worker? rofl I'm sure he'll get right on that. We have legal issues in this state. Morrison, Kline, seperate party affiliations, both slime.

Concernedkansascitizen 10 years, 2 months ago

In any case, I feel it is important all evidence is brought to light, and feel that in this case, it was not. Per the arraignment of Mr. Schmidt, the only evidence presented was the evidence necessary to convict Mr. Schmidt of aggravated battery and destruction of personal property. The evidence was the rope used in attempt to strangle Ms. Schmidt, four straps used to bind Ms. Schmidt to the bed, and torn shirt and bra. At no time was evidence including the medical records from after the rape,etc. brought up. Medical records dated 5/20/07 show multiple abrasions including, but not limited to, abrasions on breasts and buttocks. There are 2 sides to every story and it seems like the true story was ignored.

Baille 10 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like she needs to contact a civil attorney. And she needs to do so quickly to make sure the statute of limitation does not run out.

Chris Golledge 10 years, 2 months ago

It's heresay, but "He said this was his policy..." Sounds to me that Hayes is trying to keep is life simple and using a blanket policy rather than considering the evidence in each case. Reprehensible.

pursuerofjustice 10 years, 2 months ago

Bless you Mike Belt!

You deserve a medal for your great job of reporting the real facts in this case. This has been an arduous ordeal for Jennie and many others who have also been affected by Chris Schmidt's heinous act.

Mike Hayes has demonstrated that he is a sad token of a county attorney.

BTW regarding JOEHAWKS' comments, this case is not about Paul Morrison.

justthefacts 10 years, 2 months ago

just FYI - Contrary to extremely popular opinion, the Attorney General (whomever fills that office) does not supervise, hire/fire, or otherwise have the authority to "boss around" the county/district attorneys. They are completely separate officers and offices. They may, if they choose, work together cooperatively on cases. A local prosecutor may, if he/she chooses, ask the AG for assistance or to take over a case. However, the AG does not have primary jurisidiction over criminal prosecutions in a county; that is the job of the local prosecutor. The AG does have primary jurisidiction when a crime takes place that is harming (or has harmed) citizens state-wide (or at least in more then one county - or when some set of statutes says so e.g. consumer protection laws [which are civil not criminal]) . But for those who think the AG (whomever it is) can simply call up a county/district attorney and make them do things differently, think again. The local prosecutor has the discretion to choose which cases to file or not file.

The big issue in this case is the possible failure to follow victim right's laws that require a minimum of contact by the prosecutor's office with the victims. There may be some ramifications for not following those laws.

And finally, those who live in that county and aren't happy with the services of their county attorney can either vote for someone else next time (good luck finding someone to run for that office) or start a recall petition if they'd like to remove him earlier.

Confrontation 10 years, 2 months ago

This is really sad and the reason women are murdered every day. No one takes these pigs seriously, and they rarely get any jail time. I'm including Hayes in that last statement.

sickofit 10 years, 2 months ago

My daughter is currently getting screwed by the county att. office as well. Do we have any good lawyers out there willing to take a stand for all the little people????????

Erin Parmelee 10 years, 2 months ago

Well, as a former criminal attorney, I suppose I can see both sides of this. Obviously, the victim of any crime wants to see the offender get the maximum punishment available under the law. And in cases like this, it's very easy to see why. I certainly empathize with the victim in this case, but it is never as simple to "prove" a case as many people believe. Especially a rape case, and it will be an even greater challenge when there are two people--married but estranged, and some voluntary actions on the part of the victim.

Don't misunderstand me. I am in no way blaming her for what happened. But our system is innocent until proven guilty. If Chris Schmidt has an even halfway decent defense attorney, he will argue to the jury what you have is a husband and wife in the middle of a nasty divorce, and a wife who is trying to get back at him, or impact custody, or any other number of "holes" he can poke in the story. The prosecutors job is to weigh all that with what he can actually prove. But don't misunderstand--prosecutor's work for the state, not for the victims. A deal assures a punishment. A trial does not.

Not saying anyone is right or wrong in this situation, just trying to shed some light on it. And I agree with Baille--she has a better shot with a civil action.

Christine Anderson 10 years, 2 months ago

Amy McGowan here in Dg. Co. isn't much better than this Mike Hayes. She was presented with a case in which a man had ADMITTED to lawrence police to downloading child porn. The police confirmed three images on this man's computer of nude preteen girls, and their forensics determined that they were deliberately downloaded, not aquired via junk mail or spam. Ms. McGowan was too lazy to file charges, stating she felt the evidence was "too thin". Geez, a confession is "too thin"?

fairylight 10 years, 2 months ago

enforcer writes

"Advocates who feel the pain of the victims have put in countless hours to strengthen victims rights only for those who adjudicate justice to ignore them."

just out of curiosity. How do you adjudicate justice?

Lawrencereader 10 years, 2 months ago

It's clear from your comments that you have no idea how the court system works. Changes of venue are rarely granted and do not work the way you claim they do.

shockchalk 10 years, 2 months ago are truly off with your assumptions on this case. In fact, this article just touches the surface of the horrible ordeal she went through. She was bound, raped, and her life was threatened yet you feel that this was something she was a willing part of. When all of the facts come out in this case, you should publicly apologize for your hate-filled post!

Concernedkansascitizen 10 years, 2 months ago

Offtotheright - Obviously YOU don't know the facts - you didn't even read the paper right!! The victim was having a beer with the criminal prior to having any thought that he would be capable of kidnapping, raping, sodomizing, and terrorizing her. Maybe YOU should have been at the sentencing today so you would have some facts instead of having to sit back and make insulting comments that contain no factual information.

Oddball 10 years, 2 months ago

Having read this article, I feel the need to apologize for defending/praising Hayes in an earlier article. I still think Hayes is a ruthless, merciless prosecuter. I am, however, so dissillusioned and disappointed that he never once communicated with the victim. True, he works for the state by prosecuting lawbreakers. But as a human being, he should have at LEAST confered with the victim of this crime prior to his decision to offer a plea bargain. I'll bet he talks to the victims of most other crimes that have been commited that he CHOOSES to prosecute.

concernedparent 10 years, 2 months ago

I know him and I know her. I think they're both crazy. I wouldn't believe the story from either one of them.

sickofit 10 years, 2 months ago

concernedparent - It does not matter if one or both are crazy, evidence is evidence, and the law is the law, everyone is supposed to be protected by them. That is one of the problems over there in Oskaloosa, they tend to let their personal feelings about people get in the way of facts, evidence etc. I have personally experienced this first hand, and many others have as well. Our family has been put through hell this past year as well as my daughter and her children. My daughter was able to get the case that involved my 3 year old grandaughter moved to Douglas county because thats where her father resides. Douglas county is still scratching their heads as to why it has gone on so long, there is no case! But yet on the 15th of this month, our wonderful county att office is going to try to ternimate her parental rights (same case, different grandaughter). Yet she has done everything they asked her to do. This bogus crap has caused me to have a mild stroke due to the stress and injustice of dealing with these people. The court appointed lawyers....ha! But who can afford to get a lawyer, most will not take a case unless you drop a small fortune in their lap first. As a woman and a mother of several daughters, I am sickened by the handling of this womans case, and the messege it sends...In Jefferson county its okay to beat & rape a woman as long as its your first time.

Erin Parmelee 10 years, 2 months ago

Gee, offtotheright.....I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure you've just been threatened.

Krakatau 10 years, 2 months ago

I feel sorry for any victim of crime, esp. rape and aggravated battery that go before Judge Six. At least one guy, who went before him (not too long ago) after severly beating his ex-girlfriend and strangling her multiple times in one morning (no alcohol involved), is still out and about on the streets of Lawrence. He even violated his no contact order several times, but the Judge didn't seem too concerned about that. Unbelieveable.

Recently, the AG's office has a website dedicated to victims of domestic violence. They recently published strangulation checklists on their website for police officers to refer to when they are sent to domestic calls or other investigations. I hope both the Lawrence and KU police departments have been trained thoroughly in these areas and remember things to look for when interviewing a victim. Probably wouldn't hurt for the Judges to be 'updated' as well in what constitutes deadly force.

However, as long as these Judges continue to be soft on this type of crime and police officers aren't trained well enough and/or don't investigate thorougly enough ~ it will only continue.

lifeisnopicnic 10 years, 2 months ago matter what Hayes does, it will never satisfy some of you. He is a very intelligent attorney, and he does a great job. In all honesty, he has more important things to deal with than these two. They are crazy, I agree with the previous poster. I am not agreeing with any of the actions the two took against one another, but some cases, and people, are lost causes. And, sickofit - "same case, different granddaughter"? WTF? Sounds as if your daughter may have a few more issues on her hands aside from Mike Hayes. JMO

Sigmund 10 years, 2 months ago

"Jennie Schmidt said she was able to call some friends, and she talked Chris Schmidt into allowing her to drive them both to Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Jennie Schmidt met her friends there and police were called."

Did I read this right? The alleged rapist and kidnapper allowed her to drive them to the hospital? If I have read this correctly it will be the first time I have ever heard of that happening. I am not saying it didn't, but if I were on a jury it sure would raise some questions about her story.

shockchalk 10 years, 2 months ago

Yes, he certainly does have more important things to do than prosecute someone who raped, bound, sodomized, and threatened at gunpoint their estranged wife? What exactly would those "important" things be lifeisnopicnic????

Chris is definitely crazy but Jennie certainly is not. If she had not called the police as soon as she could, gone to the hospital to have her rape investigated, and outraged that the PA completely dropped the ball, THEN maybe you could say she was crazy, but that isn't what happened is it? You, and all the other sick posters blaming her are the ones that are crazy!

sickofit 10 years, 2 months ago

lifeisnopicnic- no she doesn't "have a few more issues on her hands aside from Mike Hayes". Like I said, douglas county doesn't even see a case with this issue. Its easy to say that since you don't know the facts, but you are intitled to your opinion, and thats fine. But I am sticking to my previous post "evidence is evidence, and the law is the law, everyone is supposed to be protected by them".

ksdivakat 10 years, 2 months ago

Sigmund....its not the first time....remember the little KU gal not to long ago that was kidnapped from her apartment and the ex mutilated her genitalia?? They were on the way to the hospital with her when the cops stopped them................

Commenting has been disabled for this item.