HOISINGTON — On Saturday, July 29, Robert Bruce turned himself in to the Barton County Sheriff’s Office after he learned the Barton County Attorney had filed a warrant for his arrest on Monday, July 24. He was booked on a charge of criminal threat, and was released after bail was posted. He contacted The Great Bend Tribune by phone on Sunday.
According to Bruce, on Monday, July 24, he attended a diversion hearing for a Class B misdemeanor battery charge reopened by the Barton County Attorney’s office in April. The charge was originally filed following an incident that occurred in October, 2016, between Bruce and his daughter. That case was closed in 2016.
At the hearing last week, he requested and was granted a new court appointed attorney. In April, Joel Jackson was appointed to represent Bruce.
According to his written request, he asserted two reasons for the request. First, he cited a conflict of interest due to the fact that Jackson is the prosecuting attorney for the City of Hoisington, where Bruce is a councilperson.
Second, he stated he did not feel Jackson was working in his best interest.
“He was late to court. He hadn’t read the reports (so he) knew nothing about this case,” he wrote. “He told me that he would talk to prosecuting attorney to see what she wanted, but didn’t talk to me to see what happened or what I wanted.”
Bruce told the Tribune that Jackson informed the judge that he agreed with Bruce that someone else should represent him, and that in light of “additional charges” that he was made aware would be filed soon, he felt it was best. Bruce was then appointed a Lyons attorney.
The exchange alerted Bruce, so he was not surprised to learn of the outstanding warrant, and opted to turn himself in. He said the warrant concerned an incident that occurred on June 26 that prompted former Hoisington police officer Bryan Horton to file a protection from stalking (PFS) request against Bruce. That request alleged Bruce had made a statement to people at a Hoisington convenience store that morning, which was interpreted as a threat. On July 5, both men appeared for a hearing at the Barton County Courthouse, they agreed to dismiss the action. Bruce said witnesses to that incident were named in the new warrant.
Barton County Attorney Amy Mellor responded Monday to the Tribune’s inquiry about the charges, confirming that on Monday, July 24, she made the filing decision for the arrest warrant for Bruce on the single charge of criminal threat. While she would not confirm nor deny the circumstances or any details of the warrant, she did comment on a common misconception.
“Often people think because the PFS request has been dropped, that there are no outstanding charges, but this is not the case,” she said. “PFAs are a civil process taken care of in another court.”
Mellor said she was not at liberty to make any further statement at that time about the case. Journal entries concerning the charge had not been electronically filed at the Barton County Courthouse as of Monday afternoon.
Mellor said the charge is a level nine personal felony. According to Kansas sentencing guidelines, if found guilty Bruce could serve up to 12 mos. probation.