HUTCHINSON — The Kansas Attorney General's Office has declined to file charges against a Hutchinson defense attorney who brought a dead grenade into a Reno County courtroom in November.
In a letter this week to Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder, Deputy Attorney General Barry Disney said he does not believe local attorney Sam Kepfield "had the specific intent to reduce the jury to terror" when he showed jurors the grenade Nov. 23 during his closing arguments of trial.
Kepfield was defending Hutchinson resident Anastasia Daily on forgery and theft charges when he brought the dud grenade into Reno County District Judge Richard Rome's courtroom. In closing arguments, Kepfield pulled out the dud grenade, set it on a ledge in front of the jury box, then set it on a table in front of Assistant District Attorney Amanda Voth.
He previously explained he was trying to demonstrate "imminent threat" and compulsion to show how Daily was threatened with great bodily harm to commit the crimes, Voth said.
Rome and Schroeder reported the incident to Reno County sheriff's officers, who began investigating Kepfield for criminal use of explosives. Schroeder then turned the case over to the attorney general's office, noting local prosecutors could be witnesses.
In his letter to Schroeder, Disney said he had considered possible charges of criminal threat and assault but declined to prosecute.
"I do not believe he pulled out the grenade with the intent to coerce the jury into voting not guilty because of fear of the possibility of a grenade explosion," he stated in his letter. "His specific intent, rather, was to convince the jury that his client acted under compulsion."
Even though Disney stated he thought Kepfield's actions "may amount" to assault, he also said, "I am persuaded the interests of justice would not be served by filing assault charges against Mr. Kepfield."
Misdemeanor assault does not require the specific intent to terrorize but consists of an individual intentionally placing another in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, Disney explained.
"In his efforts to convince the jury that his client acted under compulsion, I believe the facts are clear that Mr. Kepfield, at least initially, intentionally attempted to place the members of the jury in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm," he stated. "I can think of no other explanation for his actions."
Disney noted, however, that after Kepfield took the grenade off of the jury box, he informed jurors it was a dud. Kepfield's actions were without malice and were not motivated by self-interest, as he was a voluntary appointed attorney working for a reduced cost, Disney stated.