Anderson County Attorney Frank Campbell in Kansas was reportedly suspended from practice for six months after he showed pictures of a 17-year-old girl being raped — after declining to prosecute the case. A lawsuit is now being planned, according to news reports.
Parents of the girl say that their daughter was raped at an outdoor party in May 2007 when four men and boys forced her to take off her clothes and then one of them allegedly raped her in the back of a pickup truck. Campbell told a newspaper that he would show the pictures to the parents of some of the minors but would not prosecute the case. The family objected, but Campbell insisted that he did not need their approval, writing them a letter that pointed out that “the photographs you refer to are evidence of criminal activity by several minors and as I cannot lawfully withhold evidence, I have allowed and will continue to allow the parents of the potential respondents to view altered versions of them in my office.”
The family is suing the county. The suspension only recently came to light but there is an opinion from January. The court concluded:
When Respondent addressed this court, he echoed his counsel’s “right reason” argument, saying he had seen the damage underage drinking could do and thought he could “fix the world” by showing the photographs to the parents of teens depicted drinking at the party. Nevertheless, he demonstrated little understanding of how troubling his method was. Had he been one of those parents shown the photographs, he said, he would have been angry with himself for being a “bad parent.” He also denied that he had contacted the press about his plan to display the photographs but admitted the first story followed his mention of that plan to a reporter and another lawyer during a Rotary meeting. He stated explicitly that he did not understand why other women and girls who believed themselves to be victims of sex crimes might now be reluctant to report the crimes or assist with prosecutions. Also, despite his counsel’s assertion that he had several mentors who would guide the exercise of his prosecutorial discretion, he had not pursued any independent review of his decision not to prosecute in C.H.’s case. Regarding Asperger’s Syndrome, Respondent said he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) during his first year of law school and that there was a letter in the record on appeal about his condition. In addition, he took the position that his condition had worked to his advantage as a prosecutor because he could be dispassionate when evaluating cases.
The lawsuit would present some novel tort claims. It is rare for prosecutorial misconduct to be the basis for such liability, but not unheard of. Moreover, we have seen cases involving crime scene photographs that have led to charges, here and here.
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