County attorney considers felony charge in death of firefighter
Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl is considering a stiffer charge against a Leavenworth County sheriff's deputy accused of causing the death of a volunteer firefighter in December 2004.
Robert J. Peterman is charged in Leavenworth County District Court with vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor. The charge stems from Peterman's alleged role in the traffic death of Jared Moore, a 19-year-old Fairmount Township Fire Department firefighter.
Kohl announced during Thursday's preliminary hearing that he was considering amending the charge against Peterman.
At the advice of his attorney, Kiann McBratney, Peterman did not attend the hearing; defendants accused of misdemeanor charges are not required to appear in court.
With Moore's family seated behind him wearing T-shirts decorated with photographs of the fallen firefighter, Kohl informed Judge Martin Asher and McBratney that he would make a decision by June 12 whether to amend the charge against the deputy.
Following the hearing, Kohl said he is contemplating leveling an involuntary manslaughter charge -- a felony -- against Peterman.
"I'm going to think about it long and hard," the prosecutor said.
Kohl described the charge as the "performance of a lawful act in an unlawful manner."
If the charge is amended and should Peterman be convicted, sentencing would fall to the discretion of the judge.
"There's no presumption," Kohl said.
As it stands now, if Peterman was convicted of the vehicular homicide charge, prosecutors said he would be sentenced to either a year in jail or probation.
Jared Moore's father, Patrick Moore of Basehor, said family members had no indication Kohl was considering a more severe charge against Peterman until he announced it during Thursday's hearing.
"We were surprised, really," Moore said. "We figured what had been done up to this point was more than we expected would have been done. ... For him to say that was a complete surprise to us."
He said family members wore the T-shirts, which displayed a photograph of Jared fighting his first ever fire on the front and the names of all fallen firefighters in 2004 on the back, so court officers would remember Jared was more than just a name.
"That's exactly why it was," Patrick Moore said.
The family has been told not to wear the T-shirts during trial, he said.
"The advocate told us when trial begins the judge won't allow them because it could eventually sway the jury," Moore said.
On Dec. 29, 2004, Peterman's patrol car collided with Moore's civilian vehicle at the intersection of 155th Street and Donahoo Road. Both public servants were on their way to the scene of an injury accident.
Moore died as result of injuries sustained in the crash. After reviewing a Kansas Highway Patrol investigation report into the accident, the county attorney filed charges against Peterman.
Peterman, who is on unpaid administrative leave from the sheriff's department, is scheduled to appear in court next at 11 a.m. July 21. A trial has been scheduled for Aug. 2 and 3.
Asher told attorneys Thursday that he expects them to be prepared for trial by the end of the summer.
"I fully intend to try this in August," Asher said. "As it currently stands now, plan on doing this in August."