No conviction, no paper trail: Lawrence rape case expunged from public record after jury acquits defendant
photo by: Sara Shepherd
The rape case against Andrew J. Flood was pending for more than three years. The court file contained hundreds of pages. His trial lasted a full week in Douglas County District Court.
Now, the whole case has disappeared from public records as if it never existed.
After the jury acquitted Flood, he got his case expunged.
The district attorney called the expungement fair, given state law and the outcome of the trial.
The woman who said Flood raped her called the expungement a “punch to the gut.”
“To have this terrible, painful legal process just completely ‘vanish’ is mind blowing,” the woman said when told of the expungement by the newspaper, via email. “The effects of the trauma he caused will haunt me for many years to come.”
It’s common for defendants to get old convictions for various crimes expunged, following a certain number of years of good behavior after sentences have been served.
It’s less common — but also allowed under Kansas law — for people who are arrested but not ultimately convicted to get their arrests and subsequent court proceedings expunged, too.
While he doesn’t have exact numbers, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said the latter hasn’t come up often during his nearly 15 years as DA.
When it does, Branson said, his office typically doesn’t oppose it.
“It’s hard for us to argue that an arrest shouldn’t be expunged if a jury has found the person not guilty of a crime,” he said. “Not guilty does not mean actual innocence, but with that finding it precludes us from doing anything else.”
Branson declined to comment specifically on Flood’s expungement.
He said that as a rule, his office doesn’t file charges in the first place unless prosecutors believe there is probable cause the defendant committed the crime.
However, when a jury or judge doesn’t agree, Branson thinks expungement is appropriate in most circumstances.
“I don’t necessarily have to like it, but it’s fair,” Branson said. “In the end, if they’re acquitted and we were unable to prove the case, they should be able to go back to the position that they enjoyed before they were charged.”
Branson said the severity level of the suspected crime — whether murder or a traffic offense — doesn’t matter when it comes to expunging cases like Flood’s.
“If there’s an acquittal, the statute kicks in,” Branson said.
In Flood’s case, on March 4 a jury on found him not guilty of rape, aggravated criminal sodomy and attempted aggravated criminal sodomy against an unconscious or physically powerless victim.
His attorney Thomas Bath quickly filed a petition to expunge Flood’s arrest and subsequent court proceedings because he was found not guilty.
“The circumstances and behavior of the petitioner warrants the expungement; and the expungement is consistent with public welfare,” Bath wrote in the brief document.
A hearing was scheduled before Judge James McCabria on April 26. The following week, Flood’s case was gone from publicly available Douglas County District Court records.
Bath and co-attorney Tricia Bath didn’t respond to messages Friday seeking comment for this story.
The woman was an 18-year-old University of Kansas freshman when the encounter with Flood occurred in November 2015. Flood, now working as a firefighter in Oregon, was then 21 and living in Lenexa.
According to court documents previously reported on by the Journal-World:
The woman and Flood, whom she’d met once before, agreed to meet on a Saturday night. Flood picked her up and drove to Clinton Lake, where the two parked and sipped from a bottle of vodka he brought.
The woman told police that she began to “black out” and that Flood raped and otherwise sexually assaulted her as she slipped in and out of consciousness. What woke her, she said, was Flood doing sternum rubs — using his knuckles to rap on her breastbone, a practice used by medics to rouse unresponsive patients — which was painful.
Flood denied raping or assaulting the woman and told police that she initiated the sexual contact. He said when the woman seemed to experience a sudden medical emergency — her “breathing changed and she sort of fell to one side” — he stopped sexual contact and tried to rouse her with the sternum rubs.
Flood drove the woman home, got her some water and left when she was able to walk upstairs by herself. She reported the incident to law enforcement the next morning.
With the case’s expungement, publicly available records associated with it are sealed. Authorities are not allowed to release information about it to the public upon request.
Certain authorities can still access the records, however. Branson said that group includes prosecutors, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and certain state boards for purposes of future criminal history assessments or background checks needed for certain jobs.
Defendants whose cases have been expunged can say they’ve never been arrested, the law says.
The woman said she persisted in the case because she wanted to ensure Flood didn’t hurt anyone else.
In addition to filing numerous motions and trial delays, Flood filed a civil lawsuit against her claiming that her “intentional, reckless, and false” accusations caused him emotional and mental distress. She filed a countersuit claiming that Flood sued her to intimidate and “chill” her from cooperating with authorities in the criminal case. Both sides agreed to dismiss that suit in 2018.
“I did everything I could,” the woman said. “From mere hours after I was raped, I did every exam at the hospital, answered every question from police, handed over my phone, everything that was asked of me. I stuck it out for over three years.
“In the end, I simply wasn’t believed enough.”