A motion to dismiss a writ filed against the Franklin County prosecuting attorney was granted Monday.
Judge Darrell Missey, of Jefferson County, issued the judgment in favor of the motion to be dismissed filed by Mary Zastrow-Hiatt, assistant county counselor representing Robert Parks and Franklin County.
Although the dismissal is a win for the prosecutor, Judge Missey did state that Franklin County voters could file a complaint with the Missouri Bar Association, but he could not remove Parks from the case based on the allegations in the petition.
“The relators have asked this court to provide ‘Justice for Ken.’ Unfortunately, it is outside of the power of this court to provide that justice. The people of Franklin County depend on their prosecuting attorney to do that.
“It appears they are being let down,” Judge Missey wrote. “If the allegations of the petition are true, the people with firsthand knowledge of those facts should file a bar complaint. The voters of Franklin County should make themselves heard.”
The writ — a written command from a court to an individual or entity to perform a public duty — was filed in February by “Justice for Ken, et al.” The relators for the writ are Allen’s daughter, Kathy Allen, and Vincent Bandermann, a county resident.
Judge Missey heard arguments April 12 from Zastrow-Hiatt and Michael A. Benner, attorney for Justice for Ken.
The writ sought to have Parks disqualify himself from the cases of three suspects — Timothy D. Wonish, 32, Whitney D. Robins, 29, and Blake S. Schindler, 18 — charged in connection to the death of Kenneth Allen Jr., 70, in 2016. It was heard in Franklin County Circuit Court.
A hearing in the criminal case is set for May 17 in front of 12th District Circuit Judge Michael S. Wright.
The writ alleges a conflict of interest due to a lawsuit filed in August 2016 by Ken Allen, Jan Allen and Meramec Recovery Center Inc.
That suit was dropped in December 2016 at the request of the plaintiffs. The suit did not name Parks, but it named former assistant prosecuting attorney Jennifer Bartlett.
In the judgment dismissing the case, it states that “no legal precedent for removing a prosecutor based on a pending lawsuit by a victim against the prosecutor.”
Judge Missey wrote that the relators asserted Parks and his office should be disqualified because Ken Allen was party to a lawsuit against Bartlett.
“This court disagrees,” the judgment reads. “Neither the victim nor the relators are parties to the pending prosecution against (the defendants) Timothy Wonish, Whitney Robins or Blake Schindler.”
Bartlett never represented the victim or relators, and she had no involvement in the prosecution of the defendants, according to the judgment.
It further states that there would be conflict of interest for Bartlett to prosecute the case, but no other attorneys with Parks’ office, nor Parks himself.
Judge Missey wrote that the relators assert Parks “behaved badly and thereby created an appearance of impropriety which necessitates his disqualification.”
In the writ, it alleges that Parks “outright lied to third parties.” It claims that Parks “lied” to the family of the victim about the cause of Ken Allen’s death, and the time that the suspects would serve.
It also alleges that Parks’ office did not inform the family of the victim about bond reduction hearings.
The writ further states Parks was in “neglect of his duties” by offering the defendants new plea deals after previous deals were rejected.
“In this case, the relators wish to disqualify the prosecuting attorney because he is doing a bad job, literally letting three defendants get away with murder,” the judgment reads.
It continues to state that if the allegations in the petition are true, the “court agrees that the conduct of the respondent are despicable,” but the decision to disqualify a prosecuting attorney lies within the “discretion of the trial court.”
It further states the removal of the prosecutor can’t be based on plea discussions.
Judge Missey cited a previous Franklin County case, State v. Eckelkamp, when the Eastern District Court of Appeals ruled that Parks could not be removed from cases that included the public defenders office in which Parks allegedly would enter into plea negotiations.
The ruling in the Eckelkamp case states that defendants are not entitled to plea agreements.