A former deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office was granted a diversion this week in connection with a domestic battery charge from Halloween 2020.
Breanna Pence, 32, was employed as a deputy for about four and a half years, beginning in October 2018. Her employment ended on May 3, according to George Diepenbrock, a spokesperson for DGSO.
The affidavit supporting the case against Pence alleged that she drank a fifth of hard liquor during a party on Oct. 31, 2020, and repeatedly struck and kicked her romantic partner at the time, who was also a DGSO employee. However, it wasn’t until years later that the allegation against Pence came to light.
Pence was charged in April with domestic battery as a level B misdemeanor, which could be punishable by time in the county jail from a minimum of 48 hours up to a maximum of six months. If she successfully completes her one-year diversion agreement, she can avoid prosecution for the case.
Pence must complete a domestic violence assessment, refrain from using any drugs or alcohol, submit to random drug testing, complete 30 hours of community service and obey all laws, among other conditions, according to the agreement.
The special prosecutor who charged the case on behalf of the Douglas County DA’s office “believes that it is in the best interest of all parties concerned that prosecution of this matter not now proceed, and that the Defendant be diverted from the criminal justice system,” the agreement states.
DGSO asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to take over the case, and the DA’s office sought a special prosecutor to handle the case. Will Hurst, of the Johnson County DA’s office, said the office had received the Douglas County DA’s office’s formal request to review the case on March 9. Hurst filed the charge on April 17, and Pence appeared in court for arraignment on May 18, entering a plea of not guilty.
“Once we turned the case over to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, we had no involvement in how the case was charged or resolved,” Cheryl Cadue, a spokesperson for the Douglas County district attorney’s office, said via email.
Douglas County District Court Chief Judge James McCabria signed the order to stay prosecution on Monday, the day before Pence had been set for her next court appearance.
Though this case was not handled by Douglas County prosecutors, we asked for statistics to get an idea of how often defendants charged with domestic battery as a level B misdemeanor are approved for diversions. In 2021, the Douglas County DA’s office approved 51 of 51 completed applications for diversions for the charge, and in 2022, prosecutors approved 43 of 49 (87.7%), according to data Cadue provided Friday.
When law enforcement officers are charged with crimes, their charges can ripple and affect the cases they investigated.
At least one Lawrence defense attorney is arguing that his client’s case should be dismissed because prosecutors failed to disclose Brady/Giglio information, or information that raises questions about an officer’s credibility and character, in a case that Pence investigated.
Without information about Pence’s pending domestic battery case, the attorney argues, he was not able to challenge Pence’s credibility during a court hearing in March.
A hearing on the attorney’s motion to dismiss the case will continue on Monday. Read more about the background at this link.
Jeff Kratofil, Pence’s attorney, said via email that “We don’t have anything to contribute” for this article.
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More coverage: Brady/Giglio disclosures
A plea deal Thursday resulted in a Lawrence man being convicted of one misdemeanor, seeing three cases dropped and getting out of jail on time served.
His case was the latest to call attention to an ongoing dispute between the Douglas County sheriff and district attorney.
A judge has ruled that prosecutors did not withhold information that should have been turned over to a defense attorney regarding an ex-deputy accused of violating law and policy. This case, the latest to highlight an ongoing conflict between the DA and the sheriff, leaves some questions lingering.