Lawrence man originally charged with rape and kidnapping gets probation on lesser charge

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Robert Keith Wright is pictured during a hearing on June 23, 2023, in Douglas County District Court. Wright pleaded no contest to felony aggravated battery as part of a plea agreement in which the state dismissed rape and kidnapping charges.

A Lawrence man who originally faced rape and kidnapping charges was granted probation on Monday after pleading to a lesser charge.

The man, Robert Keith Wright, 57, pleaded no contest to one felony count of aggravated battery as part of a plea agreement where the state amended the charges from one felony count each of rape, kidnapping and criminal threat and one misdemeanor count of domestic battery to one felony count of aggravated battery, as the Journal-World reported. The charge relates to an incident on Jan. 10 in the 700 block North Street.

Monday’s sentencing was in question at the start of the hearing after Wright’s Attorney, Angela Keck, had filed a motion to withdraw from the case. She said that Wright had accused her of providing him ineffective assistance of counsel and he said that he wanted to withdraw his plea. Keck said it would be best to assign Wright a new attorney before he was sentenced or to argue that he should be allowed to withdraw his no contest plea.

Wright told the court that he had changed his mind and wanted to continue with sentencing and that he was sorry and wanted to withdraw his accusations against Keck. Keck was not immediately swayed by Wright’s apology.

“Wright did chastise me in his emails and texts,” Keck said.

Wright said he was just frustrated when he messaged Keck because he wasn’t having any luck finding a job. He said that despite his messages to Keck, she had previously gone out of her way to contact potential employers to try and get him a job.

Judge Stacey Donovan called a short recess in which she, Wright and Keck discussed the issues between Wright and Keck, after which both parties said they were prepared to go forward with the sentencing.

Keck then argued a motion for a dispositional departure asking the court to sentence Wright to probation instead of prison. She said that Wright has the highest “criminal history score” possible but that most of the convictions in his past were decades old.

Wright was most recently convicted of a felony criminal threat in 2017, according to court records.

Keck said his additional convictions were misdemeanors that had converted into felonies and that some were convictions from 1987. She said that Wright was also a good candidate for probation as demonstrated by his compliance with the court since he was released on house arrest and GPS monitoring in June.

With Wright’s criminal history, if he had been convicted of the rape charge or the kidnapping charge, he could have been sentenced to more than 50 years in prison, according to the Kansas sentencing guidelines.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum said that the state supported the departure to probation and would recommend a 32-month underlying sentence.

Donovan granted the departure motion and sentenced Wright to 32 months in prison, which she suspended to 24 months of probation. She ordered Wright to undergo evaluations for substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health and to undergo any treatment recommendations from those evaluations.

Wright’s new probation officer had requested that the court order a sex offender evaluation in addition to the others, but Keck objected to the evaluation and said that there was no sexual component to Wright’s conviction. The probation officer said she wanted the evaluation done in light of Wright’s original charges.

After a moment of consideration, Donovan said that the court would not order the sex offender evaluation at this time.

As the Journal World reported, at Wright’s plea hearing Tatum said in support of the aggravated battery charge that Wright and the victim were in the 700 block of North Street and were arguing. The woman wanted to leave the residence and tried climbing out of the house through a window. As she was climbing out the window Wright tried to stop her and bit the woman on her upper thigh.

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