Sedgwick County district attorney candidate Kevin OConnor said a claim by his opponent, Marc Bennett, that a convicted felon is on his campaign team is incorrect.
Bennett made that claim in an ad that ran in Sundays Eagle. In an interview on Thursday, Bennett said the ad was referring to Greg Rose walking in a recent Kechi parade with a group of OConnor supporters and wearing an OConnor T-shirt.
Rose was convicted in September 2009 of threatening District Court Judge Anthony Powell in March of that year, according to court records.
OConnor said Rose is not on his campaign team.
A campaign team is made up of people advising you, he said. If Greg Rose supports me, what am I supposed to do? I cant help who supports me.
To say Rose is on his campaign team is an out-and-out lie, OConnor said.
Bennett said, If Kevin says (Rose) is a supporter and not on his team, then I take Kevin at his word and leave it at that. Kevin is an honest guy.
At the same time, Bennett said hes not saying the ad misstated anything.
If I have people walking in parades, wearing my shirts, theyre part of the team, he said. Team is the word I would have used for a supporter. Team and supporter in this context are synonymous to me. Im not saying (Rose) is part of his inner circle.
I cant expect him to know everyone who is walking with him, but I would think someone who has threatened a judge would be on his radar.
OConnor said he met Rose at a recent Pachyderm Club meeting.
He asked me about gold fringe on the American flag, OConnor said. I know who Greg Rose is; hes not a friend. Im not saying he wasnt in the parade, but I dont know everyone who was in the parade. A lot of people brought friends to walk in the parade. But does it really matter that Greg Rose walked in the parade? Its just a bunch of baloney.
Bennett is a deputy district attorney; OConnor is a former deputy district attorney, leaving the office in late 2009. Both are running in the Aug. 7 Republican primary to replace retiring Nola Foulston.
The ad also said OConnor was cited by the Kansas Supreme Court for committing prosecutorial misconduct during the 2007 conviction of Billy J. McCaslin for rape and murder. Thats true. But the conviction was not overturned.
But OConnor said it was misleading because Bennett prosecuted a case that was overturned when the Kansas Appeals Court cited Bennett for misrepresenting evidence during a trial to have Robert C. Ontiberos confined to a mental hospital indefinitely as a sexually violent predator. The conviction was overturned based on ineffective work of Ontiberos defense attorney and Bennetts misrepresentation of a duct-taped pen as a crude knife of some sort. The state is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court.
OConnor also disputed the ads claim that hes had four jobs since 2010.
Bennett said the four jobs were OConnor working for two attorneys, the state attorney generals office and Butler Countys attorney.
OConnor said hes had three jobs. He worked for two lawyers Brad Pistotnik, August to September 2010; and Gary Patterson, October 2010 to July 2011.
But he said his work as a special assistant to the attorney general and special prosecutor for Butler County should count as one job. Im working as a lawyer contracted out working on two different contracts, OConnor said. If Im a homebuilder building three houses, I still have one job homebuilder. When I was working for (Pistotnik and Patterson), I was still prosecuting cases for Butler County.
He has also served as a special prosecutor for a case in Reno County.
Other claims in the ad:
• OConnor left the DAs office twice. True. He left in October 2001 to work for the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., then returned in July 2002 at the request of Foulston. He left the office in late 2009. Foulston said she asked him to return in early 2011, but he declined.
• OConnor ran unsuccessfully for Reno County district attorney. True. He lost to Keith Schroeder in 2000.
OConnor added, I have yet to say in public a negative thing in campaigning. Ive been trying to run a positive campaign.
Bennett said, Im not trying to attack Kevin here. Im just trying to point out some distinctions here.