The Three Hundred Million Dollar Shredder: Did Sebelius Destroy Evidence to Protect Planned Parenthood?
In 2003 the office of former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline received credible evidence that Kansas abortion clinics were not reporting child sexual abuse as required by Kansas law. In order to assess the allegations it was necessary for Kline’s investigators to review two sets of reports held by two Kansas agencies, both which were controlled by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
The Sebelius Administration at first resisted and then vigorously fought Kline’s efforts. Now it has been revealed that after the Sebelius Administration was ordered by a District Court Judge on four separate occasions to provide records needed for the investigation, Sebelius administrators began destroying original documents without notifying the judge or prosecutors.
At the time the shredder was employed, the Sebelius Administration knew that a judge had found probable cause to believe that Planned Parenthood records contained evidence of criminal activity. The Sebelius Administration also knew that the records Kline obtained over Sebelius’ objections showed that during a time when 166 abortions were performed on children 14 years old and younger in Kansas that Planned Parenthood had only reported on case of child sexual molestation.
At the time, it was also known that federal law required Planned Parenthood to comply with all state laws requiring the report of child sexual abuse and that a failure to comply with such laws would result in a loss of federal funding and potentially, a demand for the return of previous funding provided. Planned Parenthood received more than $325 million a year at the time.
Accordingly, at the time that the Sebelius Administration started shredding documents, the evidence in those documents could call into questions hundreds of millions of dollars, provided to a key Sebelius political ally.
The shredding has only recently come to light because the Sebelius Administration kept the fact hidden from investigators, prosecutors and various courts for several years. Now that the case against Planned Parenthood is getting ready for trial, prosecutors were informed that the documents were destroyed in 2005 under Sebelius.
The documents in question were supposed to be maintained by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) which was under Sebelius’ control in 2005. The KDHE documents are not patient records and do not contain patient names. The documents are created by law for the purpose of ensuring that the abortion providers are complying with the law. Accordingly, the documents are supposed to be available to prosecutors.
Even after being ordered to produce copies to Kline, the Sebelius Administration fought for two more years to prevent Kline from using the documents in his criminal case against Planned Parenthood.
II. Sebelius Recruited AG Paul Morrison Fights to Get Evidence of Crimes Back to Planned Parenthood, the Criminal Defendant
Additionally, when Kline lost his re-election in 2006, incoming Attorney General and Sebelius ally Paul Morrison joined Planned Parenthood in suing Kline to prevent Kline from using the records. Morrison also sued the Judge who issued the subpoena, seeking an order from the Kansas Supreme Court that all of the evidence in the criminal case be returned to Planned Parenthood, the criminal defendant.
The Kansas Supreme Court accepted and sealed both lawsuits, even ordering a secret trial where Morrison’s office and Planned Parenthood were able to put Kline and his staff under oath. Planned Parenthood and Morrison lost both suits, but the lawsuits again delayed Kline’s efforts for years more.
Furthermore, Morrison personally denied Kline a state paid defense in the suit that Morrison initiated forcing Kline to come up with more than $250,000 on his own just to keep the evidence of criminal activity in the hands of the office prosecuting the case.
Morrison was previously Johnson County District Attorney and was elected as a Republican. Sebelius, however, recruited Morrison to switch parties and run against Kline. During his campaign Morrison promised to end Kline’s “witch hunt” against the abortion clinics.
Morrison won the election and had to resign as District Attorney in order to assume his duties as Attorney General. Since Morrison was initially a Republican, Johnson County Republicans held a special election and elected
Kline to succeed Morrison. Accordingly, in January of 2007, Morrison and Kline essentially switched offices.
When leaving the AG’s office, Kline’s staff left the documents produced by KDHE with Judge Richard Anderson who initially subpoenaed the documents. That set of documents could be used in the prosecution against Planned Parenthood; however, it is possible those documents have disappeared as well.
During his first weeks in office Morrison retrieved the KDHE produced documents from Judge Anderson and now it appears that Morrison, who opposed the investigation, destroyed or misplaced those documents.
In December of 2007, Morrison resigned from office amidst scandal. It was revealed that Morrison was engaged in a long-time affair with a former employee. That employee stayed in the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office to work for Kline and she came forward and alleged that Morrison was abusive and trying to use their relationship to coerce her to undermine Kline’s investigation of Planned Parenthood.
Sebelius appointed Morrison’s successor, Stephen Six, who continued to fight Kline’s efforts.
Morrison and Six also ignored the clear evidence demonstrating non-reporting of child sexual abuse. Neither continued Kline’s investigation.
Kline, as well, was unable to continue that portion of his investigation. The Kansas Supreme Court delayed Kline’s initial subpoenas of abortion clinic records for more than two years. Then the Court allowed the abortion clinics to remove the names of children from the records before those records were turned over. The Court stated that Kline could go back and re-seek those names after reviewing the initial records but the delay resulted in Kline not seeing the records until just weeks before the end of his term.
Kline did not have sufficient time to obtain additional court orders to get the names from the clinics and Morrison refused to cooperate with Kline’s efforts. As a result, no one has looked into the evidence indicating hundreds of children were abused and Kansas has still not acted on that evidence.
III. Current Case Should Proceed
The current charges against Planned Parenthood were filed by Kline in October of 2007. The charges total an alleged 107 criminal acts including criminal late-term abortion and the manufacturing of records in response to a subpoena. The charges were filed after Judge James Vano reviewed the evidence and found probable cause to believe that Planned Parenthood committed the crimes alleged.
The document allegations are felony charges. Kansas law required Planned Parenthood to file a compliance report with KDHE for every abortion performed. Furthermore, Kansas law provided that Planned Parenthood had to keep a copy of the report in each patient file for five years. Failure to keep a copy is a misdemeanor crime for each failure.
When Planned Parenthood was finally ordered to produce patient records (without names) in 2006, the required copy of the KDHE report was not in the files. Judge Anderson, who was overseeing the document production, made inquiry and Planned Parenthood represented that they had those records in a separate and secure location. Later, Planned Parenthood produced what they claimed were copies of the originally filed reports. According to prosecutors, however, the documents do not match.
Since prosecutors do not have access to the original documents destroyed by the Sebelius Administration their next best bet are the copies that KDHE originally produced to Kline in 2004. Kline left those copies with Judge Anderson who then turned them over to Paul Morrison – and now it appears those have disappeared.
This leaves the copies of copies that Kline took with him to Johnson County. These can still be used but the chain of custody needs to be demonstrated. This can be done and it is possible that KDHE’s standard identification of documents will be sufficient for preliminary hearing.
IV. This is Only the Latest Revelation in the Protracted and Wrongful Effort to Protect Planned Parenthood.
A. Sebelius Appointed Court Secretly Silences Key Witness
Judge Anderson informed the Kansas Supreme Court in 2007 that it appears that someone at Planned Parenthood “committed felonies to cover up misdemeanors.” Anderson made the statement in pleadings before the Court in
an effort to thwart Morrison’s efforts to return the evidence back to Planned Parenthood. The Supreme Court, 5 of 7 have been appointed by Sebelius for life with no need for confirmation, later ordered Anderson not to testify or produce any evidence in Kline’s criminal case. The order was issued without Kline’s knowledge.
As Kline was preparing his case for trial he subpoenaed Anderson so that Anderson could bring the Planned Parenthood documents to court. Anderson then informed Kline of the order. Kline was forced to appeal that order back to the Supreme Court that issued the order. The Supreme Court reversed itself in December of 2010 and decided to allow Anderson to testify.
B. Sebelius Appointed Court Threatens and Files Complaint Against Kline
At that time, the Supreme Court also joined Planned Parenthood in filing an ethics complaint against Kline. The Court appointed the prosecutor and appointed the panel to hear the complaint and the Court will make the final decision. In early October, the panel recommended that Kline’s law license be suspended indefinitely.
Ironically, this panel concluded that Kline violated ethics when his investigators refused to accede to the demands of the Sebelius Administration to know full details of Kline’s investigation. The Sebelius Administration refused to cooperate unless they knew specific details about the investigation.
Investigators refused the Administration’s demand and reasoned that informing a third party about an investigation could harm the investigation, spread rumors, harm reputations, potentially harm witnesses and victims and could result in the destruction of evidence. Furthermore, legal precedent clearly allows law enforcement to refuse such requests.
In fact, the complaint against Kline was initially reviewed by an independent Judge, Clark Owens of Wichita. Owens correctly concluded that Kline’s office did nothing wrong. This did not, however, deter the Supreme Court appointed prosecutor and Supreme Court appointed panel which concluded that Kline’s “deception” should result in an indefinite suspension of his license to practice law.
In all, the Sebelius appointed court has ordered secret trials, secretly silenced a key witness and allowed Kline and Judge Anderson to be sued twice by criminal defendants. Furthermore, although Kline won on the merits of his cases, the Sebelius court wrote opinions subjecting Kline to criticism by Kansas’ leftist media.
Leading the way in condemning Kline is Justice Carol Beier, Sebelius appointee and former lawyer with the National Women’s Law Center, an organization created to support “reproductive freedom.” Beier’s opinions are so caustic as to bring condemnation from two non Sebelius appointed justices. Beier, however, has long considered media interpretation of opinions as important as the opinions themselves.
Writing in a journal of the University of Baltimore, Beier, and self-proclaimed “third wave feminist” states:
“The third-wave’s reclamation of feminism through engagement with the media is powerful “cultural work,” that may be a necessary pre-condition to an evolution in the law, and she predicts that “third-wave engagement with culture may be a precursor to the law’s adoption of some third-wave feminist ideas.” In essence, the thesis is that the media are tools to produce cultural infrastructure, without which even the best intentioned and artfully designed legal reforms are ineffective.”[i]
Beier’s opinions, in fact, were so negative towards Kline that media originally reported that Kline lost the lawsuits. Kline, however, won all of these lawsuits on the merits. Regardless, the impression stuck thanks to the Maggie Award Winning efforts of the Kansas City Star. The Star, Kansas’ dominate newspaper, is co-owned with the Wichita Eagle. At one point in Kline’s investigation, the Star depicted Kline as a child molester with his hand up a little girl’s skirt “violating her privacy” in an editorial cartoon. You can read Jack Cashill’s column regarding the Star’s coverage of the document shredding news – a shredding they try to pin on Phill Kline. Read Cashill’s column here).
V. Where from Here?
Prosecutors are so frightened of becoming the next “Phill Kline” that they look the other way rather than consider investigating Planned Parenthood. It remains to be seen whether Steve Howe, who followed Kline as DA, has done anything to develop the case that Kline left him. Kline had sufficient evidence for a judge to find probable cause; however, all cases take additional preparation for trial. Howe has now had the case longer than Kline. Has he developed additional witnesses? Has he obtained further evidence from inside the clinic? Or will the case proceed with a sort of benign neglect, doing just enough to claim he did his job – a strategy that typically fails when prosecuting a $1 billion corporation.
It is concerning that Howe only recently learned of the KDHE document destruction. During Kline’s tenure as District Attorney Kline KDHE under Sebelius and her Lt. Governor refused cooperation with Kline. Since Howe has been District Attorney, KDHE has been under the direction of pro-life Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. It can be assumed that KDHE is willing to cooperate and so it appears that Howe only recently started working up the case which has been under his control since January of 2009.
Kline continues to fight for his law license, although he has often pointed out that the Sebelius court filed the complaint, that same court appointed the prosecutor and the hearing panel and that same court will make the final decision.
Some have called for an investigation into possible corruption in obstructing Kline’s investigation. There’s certainly enough now known for those calls to be legitimate. To date, however, it seems most do not have the political will to do so.
Meanwhile, Sebelius continues as Secretary of the United States Health and Human Services Department in the Obama Administration. That agency is tasked with ensuring that all Title X fund recipients of tax dollars comply with state laws requiring the report of child sexual abuse. Planned Parenthood is one of our nation’s largest recipients of Title X funds and it was Planned Parenthood’s failure to comply with Kansas sexual abuse reporting laws that Kline was investigating. Many believe that Sebelius’ role in preventing Kline’s investigation may be the reason she has her current job.
The preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Planned Parenthood is now scheduled for November 11 in Johnson County District Court.
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[i] Carol A. Beier & Larkin E. Walsh, Is What We Want What We Need, and Can We Get It in Writing? The Third-Wave of Feminism Hits the Beach of Modern Parentage Presumptions, 39 U. Balt. L.F. 26 (2008).