Archive for February, 2018

One thing we know for sure about law enforcement’s response to the Parkland, FL, school shooting is this:

The school resource officer and other members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to the unfolding danger the way emergency responders reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

After 9/11, many of us probably assumed that emergency responders everywhere stood at the ready to enter dangerous, life-threatening situations and do whatever they could to save ordinary citizens’ lives.

Until I started thinking about it for this post, I had forgotten just how many emergency workers sacrificed their lives that day.

Of the 2,977 dead, 412 were emergency workers in New York City. The toll included 343 FDNY employees; 37 police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department; 23 NYPD officers eight EMT’s and paramedics; and one patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol.

Compare that with what is unfolding about the response of Broward County Sheriff’s Department deputies…

Deputy Sheriff Scot Peterson, 54, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resource officer since 2009, apparently stood outside the school talking on his radio while 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz blasted away with his AR-15, killing 17 students and faculty members. (The best account of this was provided by Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman, who was The Star’s Downtown federal courthouse reporter until leaving for The Post in 1998.)

— Today, The Post is reporting that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that multiple deputies failed to enter the school during the shooting.

To its credit, the Sheriff’s Department quickly suspended Peterson, a 30-year veteran of the force, and he quickly resigned. Sheriff Scott Israel was unflinching in his criticism, saying Peterson should have gone in and “addressed the killer, killed the killer.”

So, what’s the problem here? How do you account for the difference between the responses of fire fighters and other emergency responders in New York on 9/11 and law enforcement officers’ response in a Florida suburb on Valentine’s Day?

I’m slightly reluctant to generalize, but, what the hell, that’s what I do. So…

Overall, I am much more confident in the ability, training and effectiveness of big-city police and emergency departments than I am in sheriff’s departments and rural and small-town police departments.

I have felt that way since the early 1970s, when I was assigned to the Jackson County Courthouse “beat” as a young reporter for The Star. There I saw the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in “action” every day. The sheriff’s office was responsible for the jail on the top four floors of the courthouse, prisoner movement and courtroom security. (There wasn’t much of a need for general courthouse security at the time.)

What I saw — generally — was a bunch of guys who moved with little sense of urgency or purpose. There was a lot of pipe and cigarette smoking, chatting and hanging around in anterooms and in an office that served as home base in the courthouse.

(Deputies who were not assigned to the courthouse were charged with patrolling unincorporated parts of the county and providing law enforcement services in some of the smaller cities that didn’t have police departments, and that remains the Sheriff’s Department’s primary responsibility.)

The relative indolence of the sheriff’s deputies contrasted sharply with the demeanor most Kansas City police detectives and uniformed officers projected when they came to the courthouse for various reasons, including testifying at trials. They seemed much more focused, engaged and professional.

There’s an obvious reason for that. While sheriff’s deputies and police officers undergo basically the same training, police officers in urban areas regularly encounter more challenging and intense situations. They maintain a heightened sense of alert because the job demands it.

I have always had a high level of confidence in the Kansas City Police Department. The department has had its fair share of black eyes over the years — the appalling laxity in the Crimes Against Children unit, for example, and the maddening failure to solve last year’s murders of Thomas Pickert and Zach Pearce. Overall, however, it’s an excellent department, and as a nearly 50-year resident of KCMO, I feel very good about our police services.


Now, take a look at this map, showing where Parkland, FL, is…

Parkland, with a population of about 30,000, is an affluent suburb of Fort Lauderdale, but it’s 25 miles from Fort Lauderdale. Around Parkland are a bunch of small cities with small police departments…Some probably don’t have police departments and contract with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services.

Just as some people in our area want to move to areas like Lansing and Leavenworth on the Kansas side or Liberty and Smithville on the Missouri side — often so they can send their children to “good” and “safe” public schools — I can understand why many Broward County residents would want to send their children to school in an affluent suburb like Parkland.

On Valentine’s Day, however, we saw vividly one of the down sides of living in an affluent, seemingly safe, suburb:

Sheriff’s Deputies who apparently didn’t have the skills or experience — or maybe the stomach — for going up against a real, live, active shooter.

I’m not saying every KCSD resource officer or every KCPD officer would have rushed in to challenge Nikolas Cruz had the Feb. 14 massacre occurred in a Kansas City school, but I sure don’t think we’d be seeing as much second-guessing of law enforcement’s response as we’re seeing in south Florida.

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In the last couple of days there have been developments in one high-profile case that has drawn extensive media coverage and two others that the mainstream media has largely overlooked.

Let’s start with the biggie:

“Proper Use of Force”

The foregone conclusion came to pass Tuesday when Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced he had decided an Overland Park police officer had exercised “a proper use of force” when he shot and killed 17-year-old John Albers in the Albers’ driveway on Jan. 20.

This is one of the most upsetting use-of-deadly-force cases that our area has seen in a long time. The dash-cam video is hard to watch and raises serious questions about the way the officer who shot Albers handled the incident.

I don’t know if this has been reported, but I have heard the officer was a rookie…The video certainly tends to indicate the officer was inexperienced and used poor judgment.

With Albers sitting in his vehicle inside his garage — and the garage door down — we see that the officer has taken up a position in the middle of the driveway, several yards behind the garage door. He’s not off to one side or in the yard; he’s precisely in the path of where a car would go if it emerged from the garage.

And so, when the door opens, the van Albers was driving heads in reverse toward the officer, and the officer jumps off to one side and starts shooting into the van.

If the officer had positioned himself off to the side — which I think is what 99 out of 100 people would do — there would have been no need to shoot Albers.

Now, my heart does go out to the officer (as well as to the Albers family, of course) because he has to carry the memory of that day, and his own second-guessing, for the rest of his life. In the video, when you hear him saying in a cracking, almost wailing voice, “I thought he was going to run me over,” you can tell this man knows his life has just changed forever.

Wisely, he has resigned from the force, instead of going through months of internal reviews and rehashing the incident and probably being fired.

This is just awful all the way around…But for the life of me, I cannot figure out why he decided to position himself where he did. I would bet anything that police academies do not instruct cadets to position themselves in the middle of driveways if they suspect someone is about to drive out of a garage — the very thing, it appears, police were anticipating.


In a case I wrote about last year, a 42-year-old Kansas City, KS, man was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter for killing a 34-year-old woman while the two of them sat in a pick-up truck outside the house they were sharing in the Armourdale area.

Enemencio Lansdown pleaded no contest Monday in Wyandotte County District Court and was sentenced to 20 years and seven months in prison.

Casey Eaton (left) and her mother Cherri West

The most interesting element of this case is that the victim, Casey Eaton, was the daughter of Cherri West, who lost another daughter, Pamela Butler, in a horrific child-abduction/murder case in October 1999.

At the time, I was editor in The Star’s Wyandotte County bureau and edited the first two days’ of stories about the case. But the case shook me to the core, partly because Pamela was 10 and my daughter Brooks was 11 at the time. On Day Three of the story, I took the day off — the only time I can recall a story getting the best of me. Another editor handled that day’s developments, highlighted by police fishing the killer, Keith D. Nelson, out of the Kansas River near the 12th Street bridge. (He’s been on death row in a federal penitentiary for more than 15 years now.)

I always admired the way Cherri — a blue-collar, working lady –handled the media crush. Unlike someone who is rich, she had nowhere to hide and answered all questions put to her. She answered them with a composure and dignity that was partly responsible for people contributing more than $100,000, I believe, to a fund that enabled Cherri to get out of Armourdale. The last time I spoke with her, at a memorial gathering for Casey last April, she was living in Mound City, KS.

I should have gotten her phone number then but didn’t. I would love to talk with her…Can you imagine losing two children to murder?


Finally, for the case that the mainstream Kansas City media is scared to death of — 79-year-old David Jungerman.

Jungerman, of Raytown, was questioned but not charged in the Oct. 25, front-yard killing of lawyer Thomas Pickert three months after a Jackson County jury awarded $5.75 million judgment to a man Jungerman had shot a few years ago. Pickert represented the man at the civil trial.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and the Vernon County Prosecutor’s Office have engaged in discussions on an attempted burglary charge against Jungerman in southwest Missouri, where Jungerman owns several thousand acres of farm land. The prosecutors hope to get a conviction on the attempted burglary charge and get Jungerman into prison while Kansas City police continue their investigation into the murder case.

On Tuesday, a hearing was held in Greenfield, MO, on a defense motion to dismiss the burglary charge. I wrote last week that I would let you know how Judge David Munton ruled on the motion.

On Wednesday, he dismissed the motion, saying, “Some of the issues in the motion, appear to be fact questions that would be decided by a jury.”

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 15 in Lamar, MO, and trial is scheduled for April 3, also in Lamar.

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In a story that very few Kansas City Star readers probably saw, the paper’s owner, McClatchy Co., announced two significant changes at the corporate level last month.

One of those changes recognized Colleen McCain Nelson’s terrific work in slightly more than a year as KC Star editorial page editor: She is now charged with raising the level of McClatchy’s opinion work nationwide…at all 30 of its daily papers. (Fortunately for Star readers, she will handle the added duties out of Kansas City.)

That’s quite an honor, and well deserved. More about that in a minute.

The other change does not immediately affect The Star but could have a significant impact down the road: McClatchy is phasing in a new “regional editor” system under which one person will be ultimately responsible for editorial content at several papers.

I don’t know how the regional system will play out over time, but it would not surprise me to see KC Star editor Mike Fannin either lose his job, at one end of the spectrum, or get assigned to oversee several other papers in addition to The Star.

As a starting point, McClatchy announced that a regional editor working out of Sacramento, where McClatchy is based, will oversee the chain’s five California papers and one in Idaho. An editor working out of Raleigh, NC, will be in charge of editorial content at McClatchy’s seven papers in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Naturally, McClatchy didn’t label the new system as a cost-saving measure, but virtually everything the chain does revolves around saving money.

My bet is they will eventually name five or six regional editors and pay them salaries comparable to what editors at individual papers are now being paid. Then they will elevate lower-ranking (and lower paid) people to the top editorial posts at the individual properties, saving a significant amount of money in the process.

As I’ve said time and time again, almost every McClatchy move is dictated by trying to slash its way out of the huge hole it dug for itself when it paid an exorbitant $4.5 billion for the Knight Ridder chain in 2006.


Maddeningly, The Star bungled the way it reported Nelson’s promotion and the change to a regional editing system.

The Star didn’t see fit to run the story in the print edition, just online. And even there it wasn’t featured prominently. (If it had been, I would have seen it; I’m on that site about 10 times a day.)

Instead of leading with the news about Nelson — which would have been of keen interest to thousands of readers — the story curiously focused on the regional editing system. The story ran a total of 11 paragraphs, and Nelson’s promotion wasn’t mentioned until paragraph 10, which read as follows…

“McClatchy also announced that Kansas City Star’s editorial editor Colleen McCain Nelson will take on a broader role as McClatchy Opinion Editor.”

Journalists have a great term for stories that totally miss the mark — “burying the lead,” meaning the most important news is not at the top of the story, where it should be, but buried way down low.

That’s what happened here, and it’s kind of astounding. Whoever edited the McClatchy story in Kansas City should have immediately recognized it needed to be rewritten to highlight Nelson’s promotion and play down the regional-editor changes. The editor should have assigned a reporter to interview Nelson, get quotes from her and flesh out the scope of her new duties. But nope, the editor just hit the send button and ran the story just as it came across the news wire, with The Star’s very deserving editorial page editor being relegated to the second-to-last graph.


For her part, Nelson handled the dismissive treatment with aplomb and humility.

“I don’t think I’m particularly newsworthy,” she said in an email to me yesterday. “…But I am really excited about working with other editorial boards. It’s a great gig.”

It is a great gig, and The Star should have played it like it was. And more important, we readers need to appreciate Nelson every day we have her. It wouldn’t surprise me if we wake up one day and read that she’s taken a big editorial-page job at The Washington Post or The New York Times.

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I wrote last week that David Jungerman’s hiring of a lawyer to represent him in a southwest Missouri attempted burglary case would likely significantly complicate the state’s attempt to gain a conviction.

That has begun playing out. Last week, Jungerman’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the felony charge on grounds that Jungerman owned the house he allegedly attempted to break into and, thus, could not be charged with attempting to enter it.

Judge David Munton has set a hearing on the motion for next Tuesday.

Although routine motions and hearings can be tedious and distracting for those of us who want to see justice served as expeditiously as possible, this is the way it is in our legal system. Moreover, every twist and turn of this particular case is worthy of being sliced and diced because — as we all know — it’s very possible that David Jungerman gunned down and murdered Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert outside his Brookside home last Oct. 25.

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office does not have adequate evidence to bring charges — at least in the opinion of prosecutors — and the southwest Missouri case appears to hold out the best chance of getting Jungerman convicted and behind bars.

…It’s important to say here that none of the mainstream media outlets, including The Star and the local TV stations, has been following the attempted burglary case. I firmly believe those media outlets have steered clear of the case because they are afraid of being sued for libel. But it is absolute nonsense to cower from this case: It is a fact that police interviewed Jungerman, who will turn 80 next month, and searched his white van, which is similar to a van two witnesses saw at the scene of the crime. One witness reported seeing an elderly white man with gray hair standing next to the truck, and another reported seeing an elderly white man with gray hair driving away from the scene.

The block where Thomas Pickert lived with his wife, Dr. Emily Riegel, and their two young sons is dotted with “Hate has no home here” signs.

Moreover, Jungerman had a powerful motive — Pickert had represented a client who won a $5.75 million verdict against Jungerman — and Jungerman has a history of solving problems his own way, that is, with gunfire and without summoning police. He has said several times, including in court, “I always carry a gun.”

So, “the media,” in my opinion, is doing the public, including Pickert’s widow and their two young sons, a terrible disservice with its “non-reporting.”

But that’s the way it is, and I assure you I am going to continue dogging this case until it is resolved.

That said, I do not intend, at this point, to cover the hearing next Tuesday. The main reason is the hearing is scheduled to take place in Greenfield, MO, which is northwest of Springfield, and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Kansas City. (I have previously made trips to Lamar and Nevada for hearings, and both those cities are significantly closer to Kansas City.)

The case is scheduled to go to trial in Lamar on April 3, and I am definitely planning to attend, assuming the case is not dismissed and the current schedule holds.


Although I have no legal training, I do not expect the dismissal motion to be upheld. It is very likely that Judge Munton will take the motion under advisement after the hearing and will rule later. He would post his ruling into the public file on the case, which is available for viewing on Missouri Case Net. That is where I intend to get the result. (The case number is 16B4-CR00187, and it must be entered precisely that way.)

As I said above, Jungerman’s attorney, S. Dean Price Jr. of Springfield, contends it was not illegal for Jungerman to enter his own property.

The charge relates to Jungerman’s confrontation, on June 28, 2016, with a man who was renting a house Jungerman owns outside Nevada. The state alleges Jungerman kicked at the door, entered and, with a hand on a gun in his waistband, approached the tenant and demanded to know, “When are you getting out of here, you mother fucker?”

Two other people besides the tenant were in the house at the time, and they, like the tenant, are slated to testify at trial.

Besides being charged with attempted burglary, which could get Jungerman a prison sentence of up to seven years, he is also charged with misdemeanor harassment. (The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is up to a year in jail.)

In his dismissal motion, Price says:

“As a matter of law, an owner cannot unlawfully enter his own property without some pre-existing order denying entry…There was no pre-existing order denying Jungerman entry into his property. Jungerman believed he had a right to enter the dwelling.”

…I could not find any Missouri case law pertaining to breaking and entering a house that one already owns. I’m sure there is some case law; I just don’t know how to access it.

However, the Criminal Defense Lawyer website offers some interesting background on the subject.

“You might be surprised to learn,” it says, “that in most states, in certain situations, people can be charged with trespassing or burglarizing their own property. Burglary is committed by going into a building without permission in order to commit a crime inside. The issue most often comes up in cases involving domestic violence or during landlord-tenant disputes.”

And this…

The law recognizes different kinds of property rights: a person can have an ownership right, or a possessory right, or both. For example, a landlord owns a house, but does not have the right to be there any time he or she pleases. The right of possession belongs to the tenant…In trespassing and burglary cases, a person who both owns and possesses a piece of property cannot be charged with these crimes because, absent unusual circumstances, the defendant always has permission to be on the property. However, a person who has an ownership interest in a property, but not a right of possession, can be charged with trespassing or burglarizing his or her own property in some states.

The core issue, then, will probably be whether Jungerman had “right of possession.”

That sounds different to me than a “pre-existing order denying entry.”

My prediction: Motion denied. Next!

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I’ve been poring over the latest Kansas City Star circulation data, and everything I see leads me to believe one of two things is going on:

Either management is not doing a good job of tracking digital subscriptions, or its push to sharply increase digital subscriptions is tanking.

Print subscriptions have been steadily dwindling for 20 years, of course, and The Star, like other papers, has been emphasizing the transition to digital.

What concerns me — and what should be of great concern to all Kansas City Star employees, especially upper management — is that statistics indicate digital subscriptions were down slightly more than 50 percent between December 2016 and December 2017.

For the quarter ending December 2016, the Alliance for Audited Media, a trade organization, showed The Star with 12,908 stand-alone, digital subscriptions. For the quarter ending December 2017, the figure stood at 6,471.

(Those figures do not include digital subscriptions that automatically go with print subscriptions.)

Again, the remarkable thing about those numbers is that for years The Star’s owner, McClatchy Co., had been emphasizing the transition from print to digital.

Another number that does not seem to square with the reported digital decline is that McClatchy reported a nearly 15-percent increase in digital-only advertising between 2016 and 2017. (In case you’re wondering, McClatchy does not break down advertising revenue for each of its 29 daily newspapers; it just gives overall figures.)

The 15-percent increase is good news, but “softness” in print advertising continues to drag down the company’s overall performance: It lost $34.2 million last year.

Like I said at the outset, the reported downswing in digital subscriptions is a mystery. If The Star cannot get its figures straight, that’s a problem in and of itself. If the numbers are accurate, it’s an even bigger problem.


Odds and ends:

:: The Star saw average paid Sunday print circulation dip from 119,892 to 118,203 between the third and fourth quarters of last year. Average Monday-to-Friday print circulation fell from 78,122 to 76,853.

:: At year’s end, corporate debt stood at $873.7 million, continuing the long hangover from McClatchy’s ill-advised purchase of the Knight Ridder chain for $4.5 billion in 2006.

:: In a news release accompanying the fourth-quarter report, McClatchy president and C.E.O. Craig Forman said, “Our intent is to sharpen our connections to our local markets, both in terms of audience and advertising, by accelerating our digital product and sales efforts.”

Looks to me like the focal point of the acceleration effort should right here in Kansas City.

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I would never have guessed that Terry Gray, the 23rd Street Ramp Maniac, would have had the means or smarts to hire a good attorney, but he has done so, and it is already paying dividends for him.

Gray is the guy who careened 90 miles an hour down the northbound ramp off I-435 and slammed into an SUV, beginning a chain-reaction crash that left two people dead, two seriously injured and vehicles strewn around and through the intersection.

Gray, 51, made his first appearance in court Tuesday, nearly five months after the crash, which took the lives of 16-year-old Samantha Raudales of Shawnee and 3-year-old Ryan Hampel of Independence. Two other people were seriously injured, including Samantha’s father, Edwin Raudales-Flores, who suffered a brain injury.

Gray is charged with two counts of causing death while driving under the influence of marijuana and two counts of DWI resulting in serious physical injury.

I’ve been following this case closely, and ever since the prosecutor’s office filed charges Jan. 4, I’d been checking Jackson County Corrections Department records, looking for a booking mugshot of him. But nothing had turned up.

People like to see photos of defendants charged in high-profile cases, and when I was at The Star we always went aggressively after video of “perp walks” (which you don’t see too much of any more) and booking mugshots.


After learning that the prosecutor’s office had allowed Gray to remain free pending his first appearance, I fully expected him to be booked and “mugged” on Tuesday. Partly for that reason — and also because the appearance was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. — I didn’t bother to go down to the courthouse that day.

To my surprise, however, even after Tuesday, I couldn’t find any sign of Gray in Corrections Department records. In addition, the Kansas City Police Department had no record of him being booked through the city jail.

The thing about mugshots is everybody looks guilty, even if you’re Tiger Woods or Nick Nolte — and nobody wants their mugshot published, and defense lawyers hate them.

Nevertheless, mugshots have routinely been a matter of public record at the state and local level for more than a century. To the frustration of the media, it’s different in federal cases. Two years ago, the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 20-year-old legal precedent that allowed news organizations and others to obtain booking photos of criminal defendants who appeared in federal court.

Writing for the majority, Judge Deborah Cook called mugshots “squarely within [the] realm of embarrassing and humiliating information.”

“Booking photos convey guilt to the viewer,” she wrote. “Indeed, viewers so uniformly associate booking photos with guilt and criminality that we strongly disfavor showing such photos to criminal juries.”


But even in state court — at least in Jackson County, MO, it turns out — a good lawyer can sometimes circumvent the mugshot problem.

Things started falling into place for me in the Gray case after I found through court records that John P. O’Connor, a longtime, highly respected criminal defense attorney, had entered his appearance on behalf of Gray on Jan. 22.

I’ve known John more than 40 years, ever since he worked in the old Jackson County Jail on top of the courthouse and before he entered law school. He’s now got a son, P.J. O’Connor, who has followed him into the law business.

So, I sent John an email, asking where his client was booked in and why I couldn’t find a mugshot.

He wrote back that he had taken Gray directly to the Jackson County Criminal Records division — which is in a separate building from the Corrections Department — and that Gray had posted $7,500 cash bond (against a face bond of $75,000) and was not required to be mugged. His next scheduled appearance is March 7.

I wrote back to John: “Damn! That’s part of the value of hiring a good attorney!”

His reply: “Yes, get ’em out the back door!”

Wanting to be helpful, however, John told me Fox4 News had taken video of Gray sitting in the courtroom on Tuesday. “Can’t you (get a) screen shot?” John wrote.

I then went to the Fox4 website and found this photo…

For Gray’s purposes — and John’s — that photo is far better than a mugshot. Gray is cleaned up and looking appropriately serious and concerned.

In the end, Gray may well get a very stiff sentence, but with John in his corner, in my estimation, he has a good chance of getting a plea agreement that could keep him out of prison the rest of his life.

I, of course, don’t want Gray to see the light of day after he either pleads or is convicted. But he is entitled to a stout defense, and my hat is off to John for his crafty handling of the case in the formative, early stages.


I told John that in the absence of a booking photo of Gray, I would run his “mugshot.” Here it is…He, too, looks appropriately serious.

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Thursday was a great day for Kansas City.

After years of hand wringing, steps forward and steps backward, we have a Memorandum of Understanding — 68 pages between the city and Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate — to build a new, $1 billion terminal at KCI.

It may not be easy from here; there will probably be many difficult days ahead, in fact. But chances are now good we will have a new airport in the early 2020s.

I can’t wait. I’m 71 — will be 72 next month — and hope to God I’m here to see it.

Yesterday, after nearly two months of “double, double toil and trouble” (you can always count on The Bard), the council approved a new and improved M.O.U. on an 8-5 vote.

That’s hardly a mandate — just one tick above a bare majority — but good enough to move ahead.

I have no interest tonight in rehashing the battle or running down the people who voted “no.” (Suffice it to say, I will not support for mayor any of the “nay” voters on Thursday.) What I want to do is pay tribute to certain individuals and to my former employer, The Kansas City Star, for making this result possible.

But first, as I am constantly urging my friends at The Star to do, let’s enumerate the vote:

Yes: Mayor Sly James, Dan Fowler, Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed, Katheryn Shields, Jolie Justus, Alissia Canady and Kevin McManus.

No: Heather Hall, Teresa Loar, Lee Barnes, Scott Wagner and Scott Taylor.


Now, my list of heroes.

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board

I just don’t think this would have happened without the insistent prodding and holding-to-account that editorial page editor Colleen McCain Nelson and her fellow editorial writers engaged in. (Dave Helling deserves a lot of credit, too; he has written the vast majority of airport editorials.)

It was a remarkable demonstration of consistent and relentless urging of the council to do right by the citizens. (I wish I could say I was equally consistent, but a couple of times I let developments unsettle me and called for halting the process and starting over. For that, I deserve to be called “Shaky JimmyC.”)

The Star’s shining moment came the afternoon of Dec. 14, just hours after the council’s jaw-dropping 9-4 vote to dump Edgemoor. In an editorial that was updated the next morning, The Star said:

“In an astonishing display of arrogance, nine members of the Kansas City Council betrayed voters and rejected a negotiated memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure, the company picked to develop a terminal at Kansas City International Airport. The decision — cooked up out of the public’s eye — once again injected chaos into the airport terminal project.”

You could feel the fury behind those words. I loved the passion. It went on to slap the council up side the face and warned it, in so many words, to shape up.

“Kansas City voters should be furious about the council’s ham-handed interference with the project. Less than six weeks ago, voters overwhelmingly endorsed construction of a new $1 billion terminal at KCI — a remarkable show of faith in their elected leaders.

“Those voters knew Edgemoor had been selected in a relatively open procurement process. Now nine council members have betrayed that faith, in a stunning bait-and-switch. It confirms every claim of distrust in local government.”

I think that editorial rattled and embarrassed several council members, and, indeed, the council did shape up.

Mayor Sly James

The mayor gets a lot of criticism for being headstrong and egotistical, but, by God, people love this guy because he exhibits incredible strength, and he’s usually right.

After getting the airport project off dead center with his support of a “sole-source” contract with Burns & McDonnell, Sly had the guts to shift gears after the project was opened to other contractors. He saw that the city would be getting a raw deal with Burns and Mac (a proposal from bidder AECOM came in at $400 million less than Burns and Mac’s, and Edgemoor’s proposal came in at a stunning $776 million less. Faced with the facts, Sly knew it was Burns and Mac that had to be dumped, not Edgemoor.

At yesterday’s council meeting, before the vote, he had harsh words for AECOM and its recently cooked-up partnership with Burns and Mac.

“Heck, before Edgemoor was selected, Burns & McDonnell and AECOM privately and publicly talked about each other as if they were fighting in a schoolyard. After they were both rejected, however, they formed a convenient partnership and now Edgemoor is under attack.”

Way to go, Sly. I will vote for you for whatever you run for next.

Councilman Kevin McManus

I live in the 6th Council District, which is represented by McManus (in district) and Scott Taylor (at large).


Both were strongly behind Burns and Mac, which has its headquarters in the 6th District, and both voted to dump Edgemoor on Dec. 14. But of the two, only McManus had the courage to do what was right and turn against Burns and Mac in the wake of its proposal — a proposal so greedy that my late, great friend Steve Glorioso said “would have made Tom Pendergast blush.”

McManus didn’t make any friends at Burns and Mac, but I think with his show of integrity yesterday he positioned himself for bigger things down the road.

Councilwoman Alissia Canady


Along with Councilman Lee Barnes, (at large), Canady represents the 5th District. She joined him — the most strident Edgemoor opponent — in the infamous Dec. 14 vote. Like McManus in the 6th, however, she came around to see the folly of the at-large member’s position.

Thank you, Councilwoman Canady.

Charles Renner  

Here’s a man who worked tirelessly behind the scenes, whose expert guidance and familiarity with public-private partnerships helped keep the council on the right path.


Renner is a partner with the Kansas City-based law firm Husch Blackwell, which, along with the Boston-based WilmerHale, has been paid more than $1 million to advise the council on the new-terminal process.

That’s a ton of money, for sure, but after the Dec. 14 debacle, members of the council’s Finance & Governance Committee said that in the context of a $1 billion project, the amount was not out of line. So true.

Renner got his undergraduate and law degrees from UMKC. He earned a B.A. in political science in 1997 and received his law degree three years later.

Thank you, Charles — and your fellow legal beagles, who kept fine tuning and explaining this deal right up to yesterday afternoon.

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David Jungerman, whom police questioned in the October murder of Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert, recently made a decision that will greatly increase his chances of beating a felony charge in southwest Missouri.

David Jungerman

He hired an attorney.

This is bad news for those of us who believe Jungerman shot and killed Pickert, who had helped a client win a $5.75 million civil verdict against Jungerman.

In the absence of solid evidence in the Pickert case, the southwest Missouri case may well be the best opportunity to get Jungerman behind bars.

Jungerman had been representing himself for almost a year, since a Joplin defense attorney withdrew. The case, in which Jungerman is charged with attempted burglary, is scheduled to go to trial April 3. A pretrial conference, which had been scheduled for Feb. 15, has now been pushed back to March 15.

Stymied in the Pickert case, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office has worked with Vernon County Prosecutor Brandi McInroy to try to get Jungerman convicted of attempted burglary in the southwest Missouri case.

The goals are: 1) get a conviction, 2) get a prison sentence of several years, and 3) hope the 79-year-old Jungerman dies in prison.

As long as Jungerman was representing himself (self-representation is called “pro se”), the odds were very good, given his legal naiveté and lack of training, that he would be convicted.

Jungerman’s chances of beating the charge have now increased markedly.

This is not an open-and-shut case, and an experienced defense attorney should be able to exploit inconsistencies that have arisen.

In June 2016, Jungerman is alleged to have kicked at the door of a home he owns outside Nevada, MO, in Vernon County. With a hand on a .40-caliber Glock stuffed in his waistband, he demanded of the tenant, “When are you getting out of here, you mother fucker?”

One of the problems is that Prosecutor McInroy originally charged Jungerman with burglary, alleging that Jungerman kicked the door open before entering. A few months ago, McInroy lowered the charge to attempted burglary and changed the wording in the charge to say Jungerman “kicked at” the door.

Burglary is a Class B felony in Missouri, punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. Attempted burglary is a Class C felony, which carries maximum imprisonment of seven years.

For his part, Jungerman does not deny saying what he allegedly said or having a handgun in his waistband. (“I always carry a gun,” he has said.) But he contends he did not kick at or kick in the door. He also disputes that he can be charged with attempting to enter a house that he owns.


The judge overseeing the case, David R. Munton, has repeatedly urged Jungerman to hire an attorney. Jungerman contended at one point that he couldn’t afford an attorney and asked Judge Munton to appoint one.

The judge refused. In the Jackson County civil case in which Pickert represented a man whom Jungerman had shot, Jungerman acknowledged he was a multi-millionaire and that he owned thousands of acres of farmland in southwest Missouri.

At one hearing, while urging Jungerman to hire an attorney, Judge Munton said something to this effect:

“If you have appendicitis, you can cut yourself open with a knife and remove your appendix, but most people seek help.”

Last month, Jungerman finally took Munton’s advice. On Jan. 22, a Springfield criminal defense attorney named S. Dean Price Jr. entered his appearance on Jungerman’s behalf.

Words in large type at the top of Price’s website say, “Sometimes even small cases need a big lawyer.”

The website goes on to say:

“If you’re facing felony charges, you know that you need a criminal defense lawyer who puts your defense and your interests at the forefront….When your future is on the line, choose a defense attorney who has dedicated his life to the idea that every defendant deserves the best possible representation.”

Jungerman’s future is definitely on the line. He will turn 80 next month, and he has taken an action that might mean he won’t celebrate his 81st birthday behind bars.

I hope that’s not the case, but hiring an attorney was decidedly in his own best interests.

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I wrote with relief early last month about Jackson County prosecutors having charged Terry A. Gray — the 23rd Street ramp maniac — with enough felony charges to keep behind bars the rest of his life.

The mysterious part about the case, however — as I also noted at the time — was that he was not taken into custody when the charges were filed. Several times over a period of days, I did an online Jackson County Corrections Department inmate search, and Gray’s name did not turn up.

It took me a while to sort this out, but today I got the information I’ve been after:

For some reason, prosecutors allowed Gray, 51, to remain free until he made his first appearance before a judge. Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said today Gray is scheduled to appear before Judge David Byrn at 8:30 a.m. next Tuesday.

At that time — assuming he shows up — the charges will be formally read, and, according to charging documents, prosecutors will ask for a bond of $75,000.

To me, this is very maddening. I don’t understand, first, why a man who is an obvious threat to the health and welfare of other people was allowed to remain free for five months while awaiting his first appearance. And, second, $75,000 seems like too low of a bond.

If he can rustle up $7,500 cash — 10 percent of the face amount — and goes through a bondsman, he will be allowed to go free once again, until he goes to trial or pleads guilty.

Mansur didn’t have an explanation. All he said was that Gray’s first appearance had been “continued” — postponed — a couple of times, for some reason.

To remind you how dangerous this creep is, police have determined he was high on marijuana and going 90 miles an hour down the ramp when his pickup slammed into a stopped SUV, which, in turn, hit two other vehicles and sent them flying, as well. The momentum of Gray’s pickup carried it across all four lanes of 23rd Street, and it ended up against a rock wall on the far side of the intersection.

In the process, Gray killed two people — 3-year-old Ryan Hampel of Independence and 16-year-old Samantha Raudales of Shawnee — and left Samantha’s father, Edwin Raudales-Flores, with a serious brain injury.

There’s only one word for this crash — ghastly.

Adding insult to injury and death, a bystander took some shocking cellphone video of Gray’s reaction. Not once did he indicate any concern — or even curiosity — about the people whose lives he had either taken or changed forever.

Terry Gray’s pickup, after the Sept. 17 crash on the 23rd Street ramp

In the video, he is seen walking back and forth around his truck, disgustedly picking up broken pieces from the truck and finally kicking a large piece. In the video, he never once looks back in the direction of the three vehicles that lay twisted and mangled in the lanes behind him. And one of the most maddening aspects of this is that he was flying an American flag from the back of his truck. A real patriot, this guy.


To me, this entire process has taken way, way too long. Consider this timeline:

:: Sept. 17, the wreck occurs

:: End of November, the case goes to the prosecutor’s office after a two-month police investigation

:: Jan. 4, charges are filed

:: Feb. 6, Terry Gray is scheduled to make his first appearance

I understand it takes a while for the results of toxicology tests to come back from the crime lab, but this is ridiculous. This guy should have made his first appearance two or three months ago.

If he had killed or badly injured anyone with a high profile, or someone rich, my guess is the police and prosecutor’s office would have put a much higher priority on the case and moved it along much more quickly.

But the people whose lives he changed, or ended, were everyday people, apparently with no connections and no influence.

And so, Terry Gray — a damn bum and menace to society — has remained free. And who knows? That turd might even be driving. He has clearly shown he has no regard for traffic laws…It’s a free country, right? We know Terry Gray believes that because he likes to fly the flag that vouches for his belief in “the American way.”

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