Mediation agreed on in case of former LPD officer’s alleged sexual assault
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Mediation has been agreed upon in the case of a former Lawrence Police officer accused of sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty.
Douglas Co. Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden told 13 NEWS that after District Attorney Suzanne Valdez discussed mediation with the victim, she was open to the idea of resolving the case short of trial if possible. He said the State and defense counsel also agreed to the criminal mediation process.
Jonathan M. Gardner, 41, of Tonganoxie, has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty as an officer with the Lawrence Police Department in January 2017. He was also accused of committing illegal and unauthorized searches of the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System and internal police department public safety systems.
“I am appalled by the alleged conduct of Gardner. Those alleged actions are not consistent with the values of the department and, if true, Gardner violated the trust of the community he was sworn to serve,” Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart said in March. “The conduct Gardner is accused of is not tolerated by the department. The department acted swiftly when notified of the allegation and is grateful to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for its investigation into this matter. Most importantly, I would like to extend my appreciation to the community member who possessed the courage and bravery to come forward and report this allegation to our agency.”
Seiden noted that criminal mediation does not move or change the status of the case. He said the matter is still pending and mediation simply helps the plea negotiation process.
Retired Judge Kevin Moriarty will facilitate the mediation process for the case. Seiden said Moriarty has facilitated various criminal mediations in the jurisdiction since the fall of 2021.
Seiden also indicated that if mediation does fall short and an agreed-upon resolution is not found, the case would proceed to trial.
The Deputy DA said criminal mediation varies based on the intricacies of the specific case. Generally, he said the facilitator will meet with the defense and State counsel separately. The defendant is in the room with their counsel when this happens. He said each side will then present their positions and, in this case, Moriarty will also meet with the victim of the assault.
Seiden noted that Moriarty is careful to take into account how everyone involved in the case is impacted.
Generally, Seiden continued to say, the facilitator will offer recommendations to counsel and will provide context. In most cases, he said Moriarity will also provide an independent assessment of strengths and weaknesses in the case. The recommendations are not binding, but in some cases, he said most have been on board and the cases have been resolved that way.
In other cases, Seiden said plea negotiations continued and a resolution was reached that way. And yet, in others, he said the parties have chosen to proceed with a trial. In any event, he said the criminal mediation process keeps all parties engaged and in communication.
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