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Jefferson County district attorney’s office distances itself from Sheriff’s Department investigation

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Jefferson County District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert on Friday took exception to how Sheriff John P. Burns has described the role her office played in determining what charges should be pursued against a deputy suspected of drunken driving.

The disagreement may have influenced the Jefferson County Legislature, which has called for a special meeting Tuesday to consider appropriate actions following the suspension of several Sheriff’s Department employees for various reasons.

Ms. Intschert called the Times on Friday and asked that a reporter speak with Chief Assistant District Attorney Kristyna S. Mills about her conversation with Sheriff Burns before he charged Deputy Adam B. Hallett with having an open alcoholic beverage container in his vehicle. The charge followed an internal inquiry into an incident in which Deputy Hallett was found asleep in his patrol vehicle off County Route 72 in the town of Henderson several hours after he went off duty Dec. 1.

On Jan. 10, Mr. Burns told the Times that the investigation failed to substantiate any other charge and said, “I took this to the district attorney, and I was told that the only charge I could go with was the open container.”

According to Mrs. Mills, however, the sheriff may already have had the open-container charge in mind when he came to see her.

“He handed me the file. He said, ‘This is what I see. I only see an open container. I want to make sure I’m not missing anything. Do you agree?’” Mrs. Mills said.

Sheriff Burns did not return a Times request for comment.

Mrs. Mills said the district attorney’s office does not have the authority to level charges and does not advise law enforcement personnel on how they should charge an alleged offender. Her office does consult with officers on how charges may play out in court.

“We can say what we can prosecute. We can only prosecute what we have evidence for,” she said.

“I can’t comment on what should have been done and what shouldn’t have been done in the investigation, because that is not my job. All I can comment on is based on what they did that night. We didn’t have evidence to support anything higher than an open container,” Mrs. Mills said.

Mr. Burns has said on multiple occasions that proper law enforcement protocol was not followed when Deputy Hallett was first discovered, resulting in a lack of evidence necessary for a more serious charge.

The discrepancy has raised more questions in the minds of some Jefferson County legislators.

“If there’s a difference in opinion in how events transpired here, that’s enough of a reason for an external review,” said Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Finance and Rules Committee.

John D. Peck, R-Great Bend, said, “This is why we’re asking for an external investigation — to hash some of these finer details out. It’s as a means to try to help the department, not hurt the department.”

The special board session “to further address certain personnel matters,” according to the agenda, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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