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Kansas House member takes plea deal in Wellsville school case

By: - September 13, 2021 3:03 pm
Rep. Mark Samsel, a Republican from Wellsville, entered a guilty plea to three misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct for a physical and verbal episode during April at Wellsville High School. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Rep. Mark Samsel, a Republican from Wellsville, entered a guilty plea to three misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct for a physical and verbal episode during April at Wellsville High School. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — State Rep. Mark Samsel negotiated a deal with Franklin County prosecutors resulting in probation for guilty pleas to three counts of misdemeanor disorderly conduct emerging from strange physical and verbal encounters with students at Wellsville High School.

Samsel, a Republican who has served in the House since 2019, was working as a substitute teacher in an art class during April when he was videoed by students ranting about teen suicide, masturbation and sex. He warned chuckling students he was on the verge of unleashing the power of God.

He allegedly kicked one student in the groin and grabbed another student by the shoulders in a manner viewed as threatening.

“I never intended to hurt anybody,” he said Monday during a brief court appearance. “I am sorry for what happened.”

Samsel, 36, said he has been receiving mental health counseling for what he referred to as an isolated episode of psychotic mania. He blamed his behavior at the eastern Kansas public school on stress and agitation of serving in the Kansas Legislature.

Based on the plea bargain, Samsel was sentenced to 90 days in jail. That period of incarceration was suspended and he was placed on probation for one year. He was originally charged in Franklin County District Court with three counts of misdemeanor battery, which carried a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Samsel surrendered his teaching license in August. He agreed to write letters of apology to his victims and to stay off social media except when performing duties as a state representative.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said Samsel’s political future would be decided by voters in District 5. He could face a primary opponent in August 2022, with the general election in November 2022.

Samsel’s district includes Garnett in Anderson County, Wellsville in Franklin County, Parker in Linn County and Osawatomie in Miami County. He serves in the House on committees with jurisdiction on issues of education, the judiciary, energy and financial institutions.

“Following the conclusion of Representative Samsel’s court hearings, I want to express my condolences to the victims of his behavior,” said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat. “I hope Representative Samsel continues to receive appropriate mental health care moving forward.”

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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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