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Special prosecutor steps in on Howard County records lawsuit

A motion filed in court may once again stop the Glasgow School District’s attempt to get records related to a student’s suicide.

April Wilson, the special prosecutor for Howard County who is handling the death of Kenneth Suttner, asked the court to dismiss a subpoena made by the school district earlier this month to the Sheriff’s Office. The district requested the department’s reports related to Suttner’s suicide in Dec. 2016, which Wilson used at a coroner’s inquest a month later.

Wilson wrote that the requests delivered to her and the Sheriff’s Office were designed to “intimidate, harass and coerce the production of documents.” Wilson said the subpoena did not follow state law or Missouri Supreme Court rules governing their use. Documents can only be subpoenaed in relation to a deposition, according to the court rules.

Circuit Judge Scott Hayes ordered that the coroner Frank Flaspohler hand over the transcript of the inquest in October. The district requested Flaspohler be held in contempt of court a month later after it still hadn’t sent the transcript. Flaspohler and his attorney, Richard Hicks, argued that the office couldn’t give them the Sheriff’s Office report since the coroner’s office didn’t have it.

Thomas Mickes, attorney for the Glasgow School District, said Wilson’s latest motion shows a pattern of behavior by Howard County to subvert the state open records law. The transcript, and the exhibits filed during the inquest, should already be public records, Mickes said.

The district has received a copy of the transcript, Mickes told ABC 17 News, but was still waiting on the exhibits, such as the Sheriff’s Office report.

Howard County Sheriff Mike Neal did not return a message seeking comment on Monday afternoon. An employee at Wilson’s office said that Wilson was out of the office late Monday.

The jury at the coroner’s inquest found that bullying at Glasgow High School and at the Fayette Dairy Queen, where Suttner worked, led to the 17-year-old taking his life. Harley Branham was charged with involuntary manslaughter a day later. Wilson amended the charges last week to include specific crimes committed in late 2016.

Branham faces a preliminary hearing on Wednesday morning in Howard County, where a judge will decide if there is probable cause for the case to continue to a trial.

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