Case of former Lawrence police officer charged with rape is moved to mediation per parties’ agreement

photo by: Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office

Jonathan M. Gardner

A former Lawrence police officer accused of raping a woman while on the job had his case moved to criminal mediation Tuesday.

The ex-officer, Jonathan Mark Gardner, 41, Tonganoxie, was charged with raping a 19-year-old while giving her a ride home after she had been drinking in downtown Lawrence. He was also charged with multiple counts of felony tampering with law enforcement computers and official misconduct.

Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said Gardner and the woman were both agreeable to entering mediation, which will be conducted by former Judge Kevin Moriarty of Moriarty Mediation.

Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden told the Journal-World that “there is no guarantee of an alternative resolution, but the parties are willing to come to the table and make a good-faith effort at resolving the case short of trial.”

Gardner’s defense attorney, John DeMarco, said that in addition to moving the case to mediation, Gardner was also waiving his right to a preliminary hearing — at which a judge would have determined whether enough evidence existed to order Gardner to stand trial.

Gardner is currently on a GPS monitoring program and is free on a $50,000 bond. Judge Sally Pokorny set his next court appearance for a status update on the mediation proceedings for July 20.

As previously reported by the Journal-World, the woman said she had been drinking at a downtown Lawrence bar on Jan. 1, 2017, and misplaced her purse and cellphone, according to the arrest affidavit in the case. She said she walked to a nearby hotel, where officers from the Lawrence Police Department happened to be. The woman asked an officer, later identified as Gardner, for a ride home. During the ride, Gardner assaulted her with his fingers, she said.

According to the affidavit, the woman said she did not report the incident because she “was worried about potential consequences given the fact that she was on probation and had consumed alcohol that night.”

The woman said she told her mother of the incident shortly after it happened, even though she did not report it to police immediately.

The woman said she remembered the incident when she was at the Lawrence Police Department four years later to make an unrelated report, in April 2021, and heard Gardner talk and ask her if she was the one he gave a ride to on that New Year’s Day. That’s when she realized he was the one who assaulted her, she said.

Gardner was questioned by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation in November of 2021, and said he recalled interacting with the woman and said the woman grabbed his hand and placed it in her lap, but he pulled his hand back. He said he parked for some time to figure out where exactly she wanted to be dropped off and during that time the GPS was not working on his patrol car, and he denied deactivating it; he also said he did not recall manually stopping the dash camera in his car. He told investigators he thought he was stopped for just a few minutes.

The woman, meanwhile, told investigators that she did not remember being parked and that it was possible that she had passed out from alcohol. She wondered if she had been raped while parked there.

Gardner said he then drove her to a home but she did not have the key to get inside. He said she again hit on him, and at that point, another officer came to pick up the woman to take her to another address. That officer, when asked by KBI agents about the woman being “handsy,” as Gardner had claimed, said that he did not observe that sort of behavior in her.

The affidavit also indicates that Gardner searched for information related to the woman on the police department’s internal database multiple times between January 2017 and November 2021. He explained the searches as pursuant to “law enforcement purposes” and said he was contemplating off and on reporting that she had grabbed his hand during the ride.

The woman disclosed that she had been assaulted to medical personnel about a month after the alleged crime, KBI agents found, and she also told a therapist in May 2021 that she had been assaulted by a Lawrence police officer.