Crime & Courts

Hearing postponed for veteran accused of stalking Phelps church members

A preliminary hearing for a wounded Army veteran accused of conspiring to harm members of a controversial church has been postponed until Feb. 24.

The hearing, to determine whether the case against Ryan Newell should go to trial, had been scheduled for Thursday in Sedgwick County District Court.

Newell faces a charge that he conspired to harm members of Westboro Baptist Church. The Topeka church has been condemned because of its protests at soldiers' funerals.

Newell, 26, of Marion, is charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, a felony, and five misdemeanors: stalking, three counts of criminal use of weapons and false impersonation.

On Nov. 30, Sedgwick County sheriff's detectives arrested Newell after his vehicle was found backed into a parking place outside Wichita City Hall while five Westboro members met with police officials about security concerns at the church's protests. He had a high-powered rifle, two handguns and more than 90 rounds of ammunition, sources have said.

Newell, an Army veteran who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan, has been released from jail with the requirement that he report to the VA Hospital for treatment.

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