A woman was afraid to report that she had been raped by a Lawrence police officer when he gave her a ride home from the bars on New Year’s Day in 2017, according to allegations in court documents.
Jonathan M. Gardner, 41, of Tonganoxie, was employed by the Lawrence Police Department for about 8 1/2 years, until Nov. 29, 2021. He has been charged with one count of rape and 34 counts of official misconduct and unlawful acts concerning computers, according to an amended complaint in the case file.
The charges against Gardner came after a community member made a complaint to the LPD’s Office of Professional Accountability in November. LPD then passed the complaint on to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
On Tuesday, a Douglas County judge released the probable cause affidavit supporting the charges against Gardner. A probable cause, or PC, affidavit is a sworn statement that outlines law enforcement’s justification for an arrest or search warrant. The allegations have not been proved in court, and all arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.
“The Court is cognizant of balancing the public’s right to know, with the complaining Witnesses’ need for some privacy, and the defendant’s right to a fair trial from a fair and impartial jury. The Court believes the prepared redactions balance those concerns,” Judge Sally Pokorny wrote in her order to disclose the document.
According to the affidavit in Gardner’s case, filed by KBI Special Agent Crystal Hornseth, the woman — 20 at the time — had been out drinking with friends on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2017. She lost her cellphone and purse, but an officer gave her a ride home.
On that ride, the woman said, the officer had placed his hand on her thigh and penetrated her with fingers while he was driving. Under Kansas law, any type of penetration is considered rape.
Records showed that Gardner had been dispatched to the area where he picked the woman up at 3:03 a.m.
The woman had lost a key to one family member’s home, so Gardner drove her to another, according to the affidavit.
Gardner had manually turned off his in-car camera at 3:39 a.m., and at 3:51 a.m., his GPS stopped functioning, according to the affidavit.
Gardner radioed dispatch at 4:16 a.m. He was already supposed to be off his shift by that time, so Officer Ronald Ivener met them and gave the woman a ride to her final destination, according to the affidavit. Ivener was dispatched at 4:19 a.m. He picked the woman up 30 minutes after Gardner’s GPS had shut off.
The woman was reluctant to report the assault “as the officer was in a position of power and she was nervous about other potential consequences given that she was on probation, had consumed alcohol and was under the legal drinking age,” according to the affidavit. She also didn’t have his name.
But when the woman went to the police department in April 2021 to make a report about issues with a neighbor, Gardner was the one who took the report, and he remembered her, according to the affidavit.
After that, the woman had Gardner’s name and was able to make a complaint with the department.
The KBI agent contacted the woman about the length of time she and Gardner were parked. The woman “became concerned she did not recall this and wondered if she was ‘raped’ while parked there,” according to the affidavit. “Special Agent Hornseth asked if the amount of alcohol she had consumed may have caused her to pass out. She replied it was possible as she had consumed enough alcohol to prevent her from even remembering stopping there.”
Another person the KBI interviewed said that the woman would start crying whenever she would pass a Lawrence police officer while driving.
In an interview with the KBI on Nov. 5, 2021, Gardner said he recalled picking the woman up because it was “uncommon.” He said he had given a man a ride home while the woman was in the car. He said he dropped the man off and then it took some time to try to find out where the woman’s house was, according to the affidavit.
He said she had put his hand in her lap but he had pulled it back, and he “thought she was hitting on” him, according to the affidavit.
“Officer Gardner denied sexually assaulting (the woman) and said he remembered her because she flirted with him and ‘co-eds’ do not flirt with him,” according to the affidavit. Gardner also told the KBI agents that Ivener had said the woman was “handsy.”
In a follow-up interview on Nov. 18, Gardner said he didn’t recall manually stopping his dashcam, according to the affidavit.
When Hornseth met with Ivener, “He paused for several minutes, asked if there was dash camera footage or a report he could review to refresh his memory. When he learned that neither of those existed, he apologized and said he did not recall interacting with her,” according to the affidavit. Ivener also said he did not recall the woman being “handsy” and likely would have remembered if she had been.
Computer records showed that Gardner had searched the police department’s internal database and viewed the woman’s photo a dozen times from Jan. 7, 2017 through Nov. 11, 2017, according to the affidavit; he had also run her personal information through the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System (KCJIS) five times from Jan. 7, 2017 through Aug. 31, 2019.
Gardner told the KBI that the searches were for “law enforcement purpose,” and he “went on to explain he considered, on multiple occasions, making an Information Report to LPD staff regarding grabbing his hand, but never did so,” according to the affidavit.
Gardner’s next court date is a preliminary hearing set for May 31. At that hearing, the judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to bind Gardner over for a trial.
Again, the allegations in the affidavit have not been proved in court, and all arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.
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Documents filed in the case of a former Lawrence police officer accused of raping a woman while on duty indicate that prosecutors are moving forward cautiously to protect both the woman and their case. Also, here’s how the man’s bond differs from most local sex crime cases.