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Sheriff breaks silence on charges against him

Bellendir believes they are politically motivated from a ‘failed county attorney’s office’

POSTED April 16, 2018 11:15 a.m.

In an emotional impromptu statement to Barton County commissioners Monday morning, Sheriff Brian Bellendir broke his silence on charges leveled against him, calling them politically motivated and coming from a “failed County Attorney’s Office.”

Bellendir was charged last October with one count of mistreatment of a confined person, Nathan B. Manley. The misdemeanor charge against the sheriff alleges that on Aug. 10, 2017, Manley was detained in handcuffs by Bellendir, who spoke to him in a “vulgar, rude and/or angry manner” and struck him on the side of his head.”

Bellendir requested a jury trial which was set for 9 a.m. Thursday, April 26, in Barton County District Court. However, Bellendir said it will most likely be just the reading of assorted motions in the case.

“After a review of the situation, I have been  offered a plea deal in this situation,” Bellendir said. “After a review of that, we are going to decline that and we are vigorously defending my position.”

In any plea, “I would be guilty of something,” he said, explaining why he rejected the deal. 

Unfortunately, this will probably cause a lot of press and scrutiny of the county, he said. “I am aware of that and I apologize for that in advance, but I am going to do what I need to do to defend my office.”

“It is my belief this is politically motivated and we are going to get to the bottom of it and defend it as best we can,” the sheriff said.

One of the reasons be believes this is a letter dated April 16 sent by the Barton County Attorney’s Office. It dealt with an attempted burglary the Sheriff’s Office investigated in the northwest corner of the county. 

The suspects had fled by the time deputies arrived, but their car was seized. “We completed extensive investigation on that burglary. My detectives have followed up. We have sent over all the reports that we could.”

But, last week, Bellendir received a copy of the letter from the BCAO that went to the victim. It read, “no charges will be filed at this time due to the lack of any follow-up by the Barton County Sheriff’s Office that was requested by the Barton County Attorney’s Office.”

“We have reviewed the requests from their office. We have reviewed that case. We have done what we can to make that case,” the sheriff said. “We have done our job and I am going to refuse to stand here and have my office disparaged stating that we have not done our jobs from a failing County Attorney’s Office.”

He has since sent a response letter to the same victim, objecting to comments in the BCAO letter.

“I don’t feel I have any choice in this matter,” Bellendir said. “I have remained mute. This is my first statement and it will probably be the first of many.”

He has remained quiet, but has decided to speak out now. “I hoped to work this out peacefully, but I don’t think I have that option anymore.”

What is at stake?

Bellendir said the misdemeanor charge is the least of his worries. What troubles him are the potential actions of the Kansas Commission of Peace Officers’ Standards and Training, the state accrediting agency that certifies law enforcement officers.

“That’s where the concerns are,” he said. The KCPOST has given no indication what it might do, but it may not act until the criminal matter works through the courts.

The state agency may revoke a law enforcement officers license.

Speaking to his belief that this is politically motivated, Bellendir referenced the KCPOST’s 12-member body appointed by the governor. Amy Mellor, Barton County attorney, is one of the commissioners.

The sheriff is not sure if the letter was sanctioned by Mellor or not. “But, I’m not going to tolerate this kind of conduct from some clerk up there.

“The incident was very, very minor in nature,” he said. “I am not claiming complete innocence on this, I never have. But these charges do not rise to the level of what I am being charged with.”

There is background he said he can’t release now, but that may come out in subsequent hearings.

“There is a reason these charges were filed,” he said. “I believe they were political in nature.”

In the meantime

Despite this, Bellendir said his office will continue to investigate crimes and will continue to be proactive. “We will continue to do what we do. They may get me in the end, but I will continue to be sheriff as long as I can.”

He said he’s decided to fight and to defend his office. “I’m not going to tolerate misrepresentations from another elected official that I believe are untrue.”

County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz noted this wasn’t the first time a conflict with the County Attorney’s Office have come before the commission. But, since the county attorney is an elected position, there is little the commission can do.

“Whatever influences or powers the county commission may have, I strongly urge that you use them,” Bellendir said.

Bellendir mentioned the cases of Denise Rankin who has fought the dropping of abuse charges against her ex-husband Jeffrey Allen Rankin, and Alejandro Azteca, whose charges in a May 2016 shooting were dismissed.

“The Rankin case is bad enough” he said. 

“But with the Azteca case, a man charged with second-degree attempted murder walked out of my jail a free man,” he said. “Something is fundamentally wrong. I have never seen that in the 30 years of my career. It’s not easy for a sheriff to watch an attempted murderer walk out of the jail.”

“I treat crime victims with respect,” Bellendir said, adding his officers do the best they can to clear cases.

Unwavering support

“Sometimes its very, very hard to stand up for yourself and do the right thing,” Schartz said. “I have a lot of respect for you and your office.”

She praised his office for its report and for its integrity. “So, if you think this is the right thing to do, then by all means you have my support.”

“I will continue to stand behind you,” Commissioner Don Davis said.

Commissioner Kenny Schremmer said he has heard positive comments from other county residents and believes they support him as well. “All I ever hear is that ‘he’s the best we’ve had that we can remember.’ So, you must be doing a darn good job. I know you are.”

“This is all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a kid,” Bellendir said. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do my entire career. I live and breathe this stuff.”

“This is a horrible situation to be in,” Bellendir said. “I survived cancer, my wife had cancer last year and now I have this. 2017 was not a good year for us.”

Editor's note: Sheriff Brian Bellendir received copy of this letter last week and took offense to the notion that his department hadn’t followed through. His response to the letter, that was sent to the victim, is also shown.
The sheriff provided copies of both to the Great Bend Tribune. He redacted the name of the victim in both letters to prevent undue publicity for them.

Click here to see letter from County Attorney's Office.

Click here to see Sheriff Bellendir's response.

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