Douglas County Commission candidate pleads no contest to lesser charges stemming from assault case, gets probation
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World
Updated at 5:23 p.m. Monday
A Lawrence man known for protesting mask mandates who is currently running for Douglas County Commission pleaded no contest Monday in Douglas County District Court to two misdemeanor charges stemming from a case in which he was originally charged with aggravated assault.
Justin Paul Spiehs, 41, the Republican candidate for the District 1 commission seat, faced two counts of felony aggravated assault. He also originally faced an additional interference with law enforcement charge, but it was dismissed at his earlier preliminary hearing. On Monday he pleaded to the lesser charges of misdemeanor endangerment of a child and misdemeanor endangerment.
Judge Sally Pokorny sentenced him to 12 months on each count, to run concurrently, but she suspended the sentence to probation.
As previously reported by the Journal-World, Spiehs was accused of breaking a stick off his protest sign and waving it at a 9-year-old boy and his father as they were trying to enter a vaccine clinic at West Middle School, 2700 Harvard Road, in November 2021.
Spiehs was bound over for trial in the case in April after the boy and his father testified during a preliminary hearing.
“I thought he would come down to hit us,” the boy testified.
After watching body camera footage from an officer on the scene the day of the incident, Judge Sally Pokorny said, “When I watched it (the video), my heart rate went up significantly.”
In the video, the father could be seen talking with police while Spiehs was in the background pacing up and down the sidewalk. “False,” Spiehs could be heard yelling after each statement the man made to police.
Spiehs was also facing an additional misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for an incident on April 20, 2022, at a Douglas County Commission meeting the night before his preliminary hearing. He was arrested for alleged “conduct of loud, rude and profane language and actions directed at a resident,” at the meeting, said George Diepenbrock, spokesperson with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested during the meeting by sheriff’s deputies and was released later that evening.
The April disorderly conduct charge was dismissed Monday as part of his plea deal.
Spiehs’ attorney, Matthew Donnelly, told the court that Spiehs had no criminal history and that previously he had taught at Washburn University and had served nine years in the military.
Spiehs told the court that he took responsibility for his role in the 2021 incident and that the ordeal had taken a toll on his personal life.
“I am now divorced,” he said, “and estranged from my family.”
photo by: Austin Hornbostel