TOPEKA — Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline testified Tuesday that he did not aim to identify adult patients of the late George Tiller during an investigation of the Wichita physician's abortion services.
Kline said instead that he was trying to identify child victims of sexual abuse and anyone traveling with them when he subpoenaed records from a hotel near Tiller's clinic.
It was his second day of testimony before a three-member panel of the state Board for the Discipline of Attorneys, which will recommend to the Kansas Supreme what, if any, sanctions Kline should face over an ethics complaint.
The complaint alleges that Kline and his subordinates mishandled abortion patients' medical records and misled other officials while investigating Tiller's clinic and a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. Kline, who investigated the clinics as attorney general from 2003 to 2007 and as Johnson County district attorney from 2007 to 2009, vigorously disputes those allegations.
Part of the complaint says Kline and his staff falsely claimed in court documents and proceedings that they never tried to identify adult abortion patients. It says Kline's office subpoenaed records in 2005 from a hotel near Tiller's clinic that offered his patients a discount.
Records from the Attorney General's Office show investigators tried to identify adults staying at the hotel. Kline testified Tuesday that the goal was to identify "traveling companions" of minors seeking abortions, so investigators could determine whether Tiller had reported sexual abuse to authorities, as required by law.
"We knew that the children would not be registering under their own names," Kline testified. "Yes, adult patients stayed there, but that wasn't the purpose of the subpoena."
Kline filed misdemeanor charges against Tiller in December 2006, accusing Tiller of performing illegal late-term abortions and failing to adequately report the details to the state, as required by law. The case was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, and Kline's successor filed different misdemeanor charges the following year.
Tiller was acquitted in 2009, shortly before he was shot and killed while attending church.
A criminal case against the Planned Parenthood clinic, filed by Kline as Johnson County district attorney in 2007, is pending. The clinic denies the allegations in the 107 charges that it performed illegal abortions and falsified records.
Under questioning by Stanton Hazlett, the state disciplinary administrator who filed the complaint, Kline acknowledged that a review of the hotel records could have identified Tiller's adult patients. Internal memos showed that an investigator for the Attorney General's Office did try to identify adult patients, but Kline noted that doing so allowed the office to disregard nonpatients.
Kline and his attorneys argue that much of what the complaint describes as misconduct regularly occurs in criminal investigations.
For example, the complaint alleges that Kline's staff misled the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services in 2003 to obtain data.
Kline wouldn't concede that the department had been deceived but said he viewed SRS as a potential witness. He said courts regularly allow law enforcement officials to withhold information from witnesses. Misleading SRS, he said, "would not have been a problem."