Crime & Courts

Wichita cop’s criminal charges stem from ‘failure to communicate,’ attorney says

A Wichita police officer accused of helping a woman with an outstanding warrant avoid authorities has pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor charges.

Officer Matthew Powell has been on unpaid administrative leave with the department since prosecutors charged him with one count of obstructing apprehension or prosecution and two counts of official misconduct on June 26. Police last month said Powell helped a woman identified in court records as Heather Doody evade police who were looking for her in early May.

How he allegedly did that and why remains unclear. He’s also accused of misusing police resources and confidential information.

“This case is going to be about a failure to communicate,” Wichita defense attorney Jess Hoeme said in a phone interview Wednesday after Powell appeared in court.

“I really look forward to our opportunity to present the rest of the story in court,” he said. “I believe my client is not guilty, and I look forward to having a trial if we need to.”

Hoeme said he couldn’t elaborate on what the “failure to communicate” might be because he hasn’t yet received information about the investigation from the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office.

A different Wichita police officer arrested Doody on May 14 on suspicion of drug possession and contempt of court, records show.

Powell is due back in court for another hearing on Aug. 8. Hoeme said he plans to ask for a jury trial. Typically misdemeanor cases are decided by a judge, but a defendant can ask for a jury to weigh the evidence instead.

Wichita police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said Wednesday that Powell remains on unpaid administrative leave. He’s been with the Wichita Police Department since Sept. 10, 2012, and was most recently assigned as a patrol officer.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.