Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Friday prosecutors have determined the results of 18 past criminal cases would not be undermined even though two officers who were witnesses were recently dismissed from the Lawrence Police Department after a ticket-fixing scandal.
Branson also said his office would not file criminal charges in connection with the ticket investigation because prosecutors did not find probable cause to prove bribery or other crimes.
Two officers were suspended earlier this year, and neither is now employed with the police department. In 2011, the FBI investigated allegations that speeding tickets were dismissed in exchange for Kansas University basketball tickets.
The city has not identified the two officers, but city officials have confirmed that Matt Sarna and Michael Monroe, both sergeants and longtime officers, are no longer employed with the department.
When asked on Friday whether the active cases reviewed involved Sarna and Monroe, Branson said they did.
Investigation and review
City officials have said six speeding tickets were dismissed for a former athletics official who now is in prison as part of the broader KU athletic-tickets-for-cash scandal. The speeding tickets were dismissed in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.
The officer who resigned in February, now identified as Sarna, had a long-term friendship dating to the late 1990s or early 2000s with the KU Athletics employee and received “free, discounted or otherwise special access to certain athletic events over several years,” and at some point the athletics employee asked for help dismissing speeding tickets he received or was about to receive.
The second officer — Monroe, who was suspended and was no longer employed with the city as of last week — was asked two or three times by Sarna for assistance in fixing a ticket and may have benefited from KU tickets obtained by Sarna.
The other tickets were fixed by asking officers who issued or were about to issue a ticket to void it or not issue it, but those officers did not “knowingly” receive anything in return. No other officers have been suspended.
FBI agents, at the city’s request, investigated the case and decided against filing federal charges of bribery or other offenses.
In the last month, Branson reviewed past cases because prosecutors are required to turn over to defendants possible exculpatory evidence involving witnesses.
In a statement, Branson said his office used its computerized records system to identify cases in which the two officers were listed as witnesses. Prosecutors, who discovered the 18 cases, reviewed:
• Each officer’s role in the cases.
• Whether the cases resulted in a plea or trial.
• Whether each officer’s contribution to the investigation was material.
• Whether there was “a reasonable probability that had the officer been unavailable for trial the result of the proceeding would have been different.”
“There were no cases identified where the officer’s involvement undermined the confidence in the outcome of the case,” according to the statement.
However, Branson said his office was not able to review every case that could involve the two officers because his office’s current computer system allows for searches only back to October 2005.
Sarna and Monroe were employed with the department beginning in 1991. Monroe was promoted to sergeant in 2004, and Sarna was promoted to sergeant in 2008 after serving as a school resource officer for several years. When he became a sergeant, Sarna was a patrol supervisor until he became the department’s public affairs sergeant and media spokesman in 2010.
Monroe worked as a patrol supervisor from 2004 to 2009 and later moved to the department’s office of professional accountability. In 2011 he was a sergeant and supervisor in the investigations division.
“If there is an attorney that has reason to believe they may have a case that is affected by this situation, they should contact the district attorney directly so he can pull that file and make a review,” the district attorney’s office statement states.
No criminal charges
In his statement Friday, Branson said prosecutors reviewed the FBI and department’s internal affairs report, which revealed the KU tickets were provided to the officers and that the same officers fixed certain traffic tickets.
“However, the timing and circumstances surrounding the receipt of or access to those basketball tickets could not be directly linked to specific requests for fixing traffic tickets,” which would be required in a bribery conviction, Branson said.
That meant there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause that a crime was committed “based upon the nexus between the receipt of basketball tickets and any request for traffic tickets to be fixed,” Branson said.