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Archive for February, 2018

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.

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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.

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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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