Kansas prosecutor mired in ethical misconduct quits to avoid Bourbon County backlash

Spradling faces disbarment for excesses in murder, sex crime cases

By: - June 18, 2021 3:42 pm
Jacqie Spradling, left, arrives with her legal team for a 2020 disciplinary hearing into alleged misconduct by Spradling as a prosecutor in Shawnee and Jackson counties. The panel recommended disbarment of Spradling and she has since resigned from jobs in Allen and Bourbon counties. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Jacqie Spradling, left, arrives with her legal team for a 2020 disciplinary hearing into alleged misconduct by Spradling as a prosecutor in Shawnee and Jackson counties. The panel recommended disbarment of Spradling and she has since resigned from jobs in Allen and Bourbon counties. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Bourbon County prosecutor facing possible disbarment by the Kansas Supreme Court for misconduct in two high-profile trials tendered her resignation and pledged to retire at the end of June.

Jacqie Spradling, who previously resigned from a part-time legal job in Allen County, submitted a letter to the county’s Republican Party and to the governor’s office declaring her intent to quit the elective position of Bourbon County prosecutor on June 30. She was appointed in Bourbon County by GOP leadership in 2018 and elected to a four-year term in 2020 without opposition. Her annual salary as prosecutor was $50,100.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Bourbon County attorney for the last three years. I am retiring,” she said in the resignation letter.

More than a week before she submitted the letter Wednesday, a campaign was launched to convince the Bourbon County Commission to take a vote of no confidence against Spradling or request that she voluntarily step down. There also was discussion at a commission meeting of a recall petition.

Justin Meeks, standing right, advised the Bourbon County Commission that Jacqie Spradling's time as county prosecutor would come to a end without commission action. On Wednesday, Spradling quit her job. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)
Bourbon County counselor Justin Meeks, standing right, advised the Bourbon County Commission that Jacqie Spradling’s time as county prosecutor would come to an end without commission action. On Wednesday, Spradling quit her job. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

Bourbon County counselor Justin Meeks advised the county commission Tuesday that he was confident Spradling’s tenure as prosecutor was coming to an end. He discouraged the county commission from taking formal action at that time.

“I believe that patience gains all things,” said Meeks, who preceded Spradling as county prosecutor. “The process will take care of itself and we’ll get on down the road. I don’t like to be told to have patience, but in this case, it’s going to rectify itself fairly shortly.”

Meeks said the recommendation for disbarment of Spradling was a substantial professional hurdle to overcome. It would be unusual for the Supreme Court to disregard the disciplinary preference of the three-attorney panel reviewing evidence of improper actions by a lawyer, he said.

“I don’t think you can get a stronger recommendation than that with my profession,” Meeks said.

Michael Braim, who was charged with criminal offenses while Spradling was Bourbon County prosecutor, said the county commission should take aggressive action to strip Spradling of her courtroom authority.

“We need Jacqie Spradling gone. We don’t feel safe. We don’t feel like our county is safe,” Braim said. “I hope we’re not just taking the easy way out. In my opinion, Justin (Meeks’) opinion is cowardly. That’s not how we do things in Bourbon County.”

Lynne Oharah, chairman of the county commission, said there was growing sentiment something had to be done about Spradling. He also said the county commission wasn’t responsible for hiring the county prosecutor and consequently didn’t have much leverage to influence the situation.

“The only thing we handle for that office, strictly, is the budget,” Oharah said. “We don’t tell them how to do their cases or who to hire.”

Mark McCoy, chairman of the Bourbon County’s Republican Party, said resumes of people interested in replacing Spradling would be collected and background checks performed on applicants. A county GOP meeting would be called to find a replacement for Spradling. That nominee’s name must be submitted to Gov. Laura Kelly for final approval. The individual selected would stand for election in November 2022.

Bourbon County Commission Chairman Lynne Oharah, left, said the commission had little leverage to force ouster of Bourbon County Attorney Jacqie Spradling, who faces disbarment. She resigned effective June 30. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)
Bourbon County Commission Chairman Lynne Oharah, left, said the commission had little leverage to force out Bourbon County Attorney Jacqie Spradling, who faces disbarment. She resigned effective June 30. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

In January 2018, Spradling was chosen by the county’s GOP officials to fill the prosecutor’s job. The vote was 23-11 to elevate Spradling from assistant county prosecutor, a position she held after leaving the Shawnee County district attorney’s office. She was in Shawnee County from 2009 to 2017.

A three-attorney panel unanimously proposed the Supreme Court strip Spradling of her license to practice law in Kansas. She has been accused of a deliberate “pattern of serious misconduct” and a “win-at-all-costs approach” in a 2012 Shawnee County double-homicide case and a 2017 Jackson County case of sexual abuse. She convinced juries to convict defendants in both cases, but those verdicts were overturned on appeal.

The Supreme Court, which was responsible for reversing convictions of Dana Chandler in the Shawnee County murder case, is responsible for considering findings of the three-lawyer panel regarding Spradling. The justices could affirm disbarment or order a lesser sanction.

The news outlet Fort Scott Biz reported Spradling’s assistant prosecutors in Bourbon County included Chad Taylor, who was district attorney in Shawnee County and shared courtroom duties with Spradling in the prosecution of Chandler. Taylor supervised Spradling and both presented evidence at trial. They sat side-by-side in the courtroom on the day Chandler was sentenced.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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