Former Lawrence police officer charged with rape rejects plea offer, says he’s ready for trial
photo by: Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office
A former Lawrence police officer charged with rape, multiple counts of officer misconduct and other crimes said Friday that he has no intention of taking a plea deal and is ready to go to trial on the charges.
The ex-officer, Jonathan Mark Gardner, 42, of Tonganoxie, is charged in Douglas County District Court with one count of rape, 17 felony counts of unlawful use of computers and 17 misdemeanor counts of officer misconduct, according to charging documents.
The charges relate to an incident on Jan. 1, 2017, when Gardner, while on duty, is alleged to have taken an intoxicated woman home after she was drinking on Massachusetts Street and to have raped her in his patrol vehicle. Gardner then allegedly used Lawrence Police Department computers to search for personal information about the woman multiple times through 2021 without an official reason, as the Journal-World reported.
On Friday, Gardner appeared in court for a pretrial conference at which Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden said that the state had offered a plea agreement to Gardner that he rejected. Seiden said the offer asked Gardner to enter a no contest or guilty plea to a midlevel aggravated sexual battery charge and three of the felony unlawful use of a computer charges.
If Gardner had taken the deal, the state would have recommended 34 months for the aggravated sexual battery and nine months for each computer charge, all to run consecutively, for a total of 61 months in prison, or just over five years, Seiden said. As part of the plea, Gardner would not have been allowed to ask the court for probation.
Judge Sally Pokorny explained that if Gardner is convicted of the rape charge he faces as much as 165 months, or almost 14 years in prison, and nine months for each computer charge, which she said could run consecutively, increasing Gardner’s sentence significantly. She then asked if Gardner understood.
“I am well aware,” Gardner said.
Gardner’s attorney, John DeMarco, said that Gardner was not entertaining the idea of entering a plea on any of the charges and is prepared for trial.
The trial is scheduled for five days beginning on May 22. Gardner is currently free on a $50,000 own-recognizance bond, meaning he was not required to put up any money to be released from jail but may be charged that amount if he fails to appear in court.