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Attorney General Kobach visits Great Bend
AG focuses on fentanyl, organized retail thefts
Area county attorneys were in attendance at the Great Bend Events Center Santa Fe Room for a training discussion hosted by Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach on Friday. - photo by Michael Gilmore
Kansas AG Kobach is pictured with Barton County Attorney Levi Morris. - photo by Susan Thacker

Attorney General Kris Kobach and some of his staff were in Great Bend on Friday to offer continuing legal education to district and county attorneys from 11 counties.

Friday morning, they talked about criminal appeals and the latest changes in the law. In the afternoon, one of his staff members talked about civil litigation, providing updates on statutes and cases and the latest standards for county attorneys.

Over the lunch hour, Kobach made a presentation on two prosecution priorities for his office since he was elected in 2022: “Going after fentanyl crimes and going after organized retail crime, which is organized theft on a very large scale,” he said.

Typically, organized criminals send one person called a booster into a retail store, Kobach explained. “That’s called a pushout. He or she loads up a cart full of whatever and pushes out (of the store). Within a day or two it’s being sold online. It’s a $642 million a year problem in Kansas, so it’s a very big issue.”

The attorneys from Topeka were there to teach, but they also hold these annual programs to learn.

“It’s a two-way communication,” Kobach said. “It’s really important for me as the chief law enforcement officer of the state to hear what’s going on at the front line, because the county attorneys do the vast majority of the prosecuting in Kansas.”

The Wichita District Attorney’s Office had someone at the Great Bend meeting, and they discussed a crime occurring now with some regularity in Wichita, where motorcycle gangs stop traffic, taking over intersections and creating deadly hazards in some cases, Kobach said. “They will punish any cars that try to cross the intersection, or break off their mirrors. They are usually armed. People have died. And so we were talking about how the criminal statutes right now don’t adequately address that problem.”

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office also does a great deal of appellate work. “In approximately 40 counties, we have a contract where we do all of the appellate work, and then in the other counties we review all briefs and file all for the counties and they write them. We have a really important and valuable cooperative relationship with the county attorneys in Kansas.”

Supporting Texas Border Protection

Kobach also talked about the amicus brief his office has filed in the Fifth Circuit, of the Federal Court of Appeals supporting Texas’s use of the buoy barriers on the Rio Grande River.

“The Biden administration is challenging their ability to do that,” he said. “Our point is that if the federal government is not protecting the border, the states do have a right under our Constitution to protect themselves and that includes protecting the border.”

A Local Benefit

Barton County Attorney Levi Morris and the attorneys in his office were all there for the training as well.

“As much as the Attorney General can talk to you about the ways in which he fights for Kansans with the feds, he does so much more,” Morris said. “ His office does so much more. That’s what these meetings are about. His office’s criminal litigation division and other divisions provide resources to the counties across the state. Five big counties have all sorts of resources; the other 100 Kansas counties don’t. And so, anytime we have a homicide it was almost presumptive we’re going to call the KBI, call the Attorney General’s Office, and we will have that homicide prosecuted by somebody who has a world of experience – probably who’s prosecuted dozens of homicides.” The is important to Barton County but even more important to smaller rural counties that may not have a full-time county attorney. “Nothing against part-time county attorneys. A lot of them don’t have the experience or skill to prosecute a homicide, some of the high-level sex crimes, child sex crimes ... and elder abuse cases. The Attorney General’s office and their division is a huge resource for county attorneys and local prosecution.” The face-to-face nature of Friday’s training was an added bonus, Morris said.