Article updated at 3:12 p.m. Thursday:
A Douglas County judge who had initially granted the petition to expunge false impersonation charges from the record of a Baldwin City police sergeant reconsidered that decision Thursday, taking another pending expungement into account.
Clint Epperly, who has been employed by the department for nine years, was charged in Douglas County with two counts of misdemeanor false impersonation in March 2014. Prosecutors dropped the charges on July 25, 2014.
Though specifics of the allegations were unclear, Epperly’s attorney, Tyler Pettigrew, argued that the case should be expunged because the dismissal never gave Epperly the opportunity to answer charges that he misrepresented his role in law enforcement in comments made on Facebook.
Douglas County District Court Chief Judge James McCabria initially ruled that he would allow the case to be expunged from Epperly’s record except for certain circumstances, including applications for employment in law enforcement, and in any court proceeding where Epperly is a material witness and an inquiry is made into his credibility or veracity.
However, McCabria set aside that ruling in a new order Thursday afternoon. He wrote that he had taken notice of an additional petition for expungement filed in Lyon County. In that case, Epperly was charged in 2009 with felony official misconduct and misdemeanor theft while working with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He was acquitted of those charges after a bench trial.
Epperly was not legally required to include details about the Lyon County case in his Douglas County petition and did not do so. Neither Assistant District Attorney Brian Deiter nor Epperly’s attorney made mention of the Lyon County petition during Epperly’s hearing Monday. In the order issued Thursday afternoon, McCabria said the court would receive additional evidence before reconsidering Epperly’s petition.
“In consideration of the interests of justice, the Court believes it is necessary and appropriate to inquire into the accuracy of the information and determine its relevance, if any, before deciding whether its decision herein can stand,” McCabria said in Thursday’s order.
In his original ruling, McCabria had written that although the arrest record and related court proceedings would be expunged, the information would be disclosed under certain circumstances as outlined by Kansas statutes. He wrote that he had weighed the interests of public welfare as well as Epperly’s right as an individual to be treated fairly by the court.
“The public welfare is served, and justice is best served, when law enforcement officers are held to standards of honesty and integrity which go beyond that of their fellow citizens,” he wrote.
While the judicial branch has a duty to hold law enforcement officers to that standard, the court also had to weigh Epperly’s individual expectations for justice, McCabria had written.
“In this case, a fair reading of the original affidavit suggests circumstances that, while not justifying the conduct, at least lends context and understanding to how a person might fall short of the highest standards on any given day.”
Epperly’s hearing in Lyon County is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 24. The hearing to reconsider Epperly’s petition for expungement in Douglas County is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 31.
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Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
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