Thursday, August 14, 2014

it takes perfect timing to see the usually invisible face of systemic corruption


pitch |  Remarks made by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Bryan Round during a sentencing hearing July 30 have raised the eyebrows of some legal-ethics experts.

Round was sentencing Nicholas Rose on convictions of careless and imprudent driving and disturbing the peace for an incident last year, in which Rose and several dozen stunt-bike riders were creating a traffic hazard on U.S. Highway 40, near Interstate 70.

According to transcripts of the hearing obtained by The Pitch, Round became angry after discovering that Rose was considering filing a civil lawsuit against the Kansas City Police Department. Rose believed that officer Donald Hubbard used excessive force during his arrest.

Round called Rose “a vulture” and said the defendant “played me for a fool,” according to the transcript. Round sentenced him to a two-week jail sentence and two years of probation.

“I can’t tell you how upset that information made me,” said Round, who was the attorney for the Kansas City Police Board for about eight years before becoming a judge. “I am going to impose a two week period of shock incarceration because I don’t think you get it. I just don’t think you get it.”

Several legal experts and local lawyers who reviewed the transcripts say the fact that a defendant is considering a civil lawsuit should never be a factor in a criminal proceeding.

“What the judge did was outrageous,” says Shaun Martin, a law professor at the University of San Diego School of Law. “You can’t sentence someone to prison just because they exercise their right to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit … is expressly protected by the First Amendment.”

Round would not comment for this story. He didn’t say during the hearing how he learned of the potential civil lawsuit.

Rose’s encounter with Hubbard came six months before the officer shot and killed Kansas City firefighter Anthony Bruno during an altercation. The Pitch raised questions about that shooting in last week’s issue (“It Didn’t Need to End This Way,” August 7) and with the release of enhanced video of the fight.

Last week, in a separate case, Bruno’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Marriott Hotel and Hubbard, who was working off-duty at the hotel when he shot Bruno.

Round has been assigned to that case.