TOPEKA — The brawl between two women at a Topeka residence of Kansas political lobbyist Jim Gardner featured a near-naked combatant relying on tactical biting, punching and pulling of hair, as well as the arrest and hospital treatment of the other fighter classified as a victim of battery.
No one has been prosecuted for the episode, apparently because the case was never forwarded to the Shawnee County district attorney, despite allegations of prostitution by one of the participants. The sequence of events involved Gardner, a former Topeka City Council member, in addition to brief appearances by a member of the Kansas House and a former Kansas securities commissioner.
Law enforcement reports indicated this middle-of-the-night clash last November between Danelcesha Renee Bush and Jocelyn Renee Joiner, who both have lengthy arrest records, began when Bush emerged from a bedroom also occupied by Gardner. Bush was wearing only her bra and panties and asked Joiner to join the couple, Joiner told investigators. Joiner said her rejection of Bush’s request, a Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office report said, was the trigger for the wrestling match.
“According to Joiner, Gardner witnessed the altercation and didn’t do anything,” deputy Joshua Franco said.
The deputy’s incident report said Joiner assumed their visit to Gardner’s house on Canterbury Town Road involved a “prostitution deal.” The women departed the house separately after the fight, the report said, but rekindled their disagreement at a residence on 34th Street in Topeka.
That’s where Joiner was arrested by the Topeka Police Department on outstanding warrants. She was taken to a hospital for treatment of facial injuries and bite marks on her arms and legs. Joiner was listed on reports as a crime victim, and photographs were taken of her wounds.
Gardner — not to be confused with Topeka Democratic state Rep. Jim Gartner, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart — didn’t respond to requests to explain how a possible crime occurred in his house and why the case slipped through the cracks.
In addition, Gardner’s attorney didn’t return a call. Bush couldn’t be reached and the woman who answered Joiner’s cellphone declined to talk about the incident.
Deputy Franco returned two days after the fight for a knock-and-talk with Gardner, but state Rep. Willie Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican, greeted the officer at the door. Dove said at that time he was among Gardner’s friends and periodically stayed overnight at the Topeka house. He told the deputy he didn’t know if Gardner was home at that moment.
In a subsequent interview with the Kansas Reflector, Dove said he couldn’t shed light on allegations of prostitution or battery stemming from the incident.
“Wasn’t there. Glad I wasn’t. If I had known, I’d have gotten out,” Dove said.
Franco said Gardner eventually called him to confirm two Black women — Bush and Joiner — had been at his residence Nov. 12, 2019 and initiated the fight around 1 a.m.
“Gardner wasn’t willing to talk about how he knew the two women and told me he was watching TV while they were at the house,” the officer wrote in his report.
Gardner is registered as a Kansas lobbyist for Sunflower State Health Plan, which is one of the companies hired by the state to operate Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program for disabled, elderly and low-income people.
Ryan Myers, a detective with the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, added a layer to the investigation in December after receiving a call from Josh Ney, an attorney and former state securities commissioner. Ney said he represented Gardner in business matters.
Ney is Jefferson County attorney and has maintained a private legal practice. His work includes assisting during April in the successful lawsuit filed on behalf of two Kansas churches challenging Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide shelter-in-place order that restricted the capacity of houses of worship to hold regular services.
In an investigative report summarizing Myers’ conversation with Ney, the detective wrote the lawyer said Gardner hoped it would be unnecessary for him to become more involved in the case.
“I explained that I would like to talk to Gardner in more detail about the incident because his statement is lacking,” Myers’ report said.
The detective said Ney’s client didn’t want to speak again with investigators and declined to provide a written witness statement.
“I told him that I understood that he did not want to make any further statements as it was alleged that there was a prostitution allegation,” Myers’ wrote.
He reported Ney affirmed Gardner was loathe to talk with officers if people were going to level allegations against Gardner.
“I then told him that I find it hard to believe that anybody that didn’t have anything to hide would be hiding behind their attorney,” the detective said in his report.