Jury acquits sheriff’s deputy
Robert Peterman reinstated to duty
A Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office deputy was reinstated to the department Monday after he was found innocent of a vehicular homicide charge.
On Thursday, Sept. 15, a jury acquitted Robert J. Peterman of vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor. The charge stemmed from a Dec. 2004 fatality accident in which Peterman's police cruiser collided with a civilian vehicle driven by Jared Moore, a 19-year-old Fairmount Township volunteer firefighter.
The two public servants were traveling to the scene of an injury accident when their vehicles smashed together.
Peterman, who'd been on unpaid, administrative leave since charges were filed against him, returned to service this week, said Sheriff Dave Zoellner. The sheriff sent a letter Friday to Peterman informing him of his reinstatement.
The deputy will be assigned to the jail, Zoellner said.
"He was assigned where the greatest needs are," said the sheriff, who added that Peterman will be eligible to apply for patrol duty when a position becomes available.
The Peterman-Moore accident occurred when Moore attempted to make a left hand turn onto Donahoo Road. His vehicle was struck by Peterman's vehicle, which was attempting to pass Moore through the intersection.
A Kansas Highway Patrol officer testified that Peterman gave a statement to investigators indicating he was confused as to where he was going. The deputy was attempting to pass Moore because he believed the Donahoo/155th Street intersection was a mile farther north, the highway patrol officer testified.
Kohl said Peterman's confusion and his speed at the time, approximately 90 miles per hour, meant the deputy acted in a reckless manner.
Peterman's attorney, Kiann McBratney disputed the speed alleged by the prosecution.
She also indicated her client was operating with the standard of care utilized by other sheriff's office deputies during emergencies.
Testimony was heard throughout the trial from experts who disagreed as to Peterman's speed on the night in question.
The Peterman trial, scheduled to last two days, stretched into a third. The jury, comprised of four men and two women, handed down its verdict Thursday afternoon.
County attorney Frank Kohl, though disappointed in the jury's decision, said he sympathized with the difficult task presented to them during trial.
"I could see how a jury could find either way," Kohl said.
Kohl said he spoke with jury members following the trial. He said jurors indicated Peterman was "wreckless" but his action were "not necessarily a material deviation from the standard of care."
Patrick and Marlene Moore, Basehor residents and Jared Moore's parents, were visibly upset following the announcement of the jury's verdict.
"If you want to kill someone who lives in Kansas just make sure to do it with a car because there is no penalty," Marlene Moore said in a statement later released to this newspaper.
"It is as if Jared were no more important than a blade of grass cut down on the side of the road. ...They raped and killed my son in Dec. 2004 and they raped and killed my son again (Thursday).
"This hurts just as badly and as deeply as the first time he killed our son."
Adding salt to the family's injuries came additional news Thursday that someone had allegedly desecrated a makeshift memorial dedicated to Jared at the Donahoo/155th Street intersection.
"I find it kind of low that somebody would go out and do something like that," Patrick Moore said. "I find it kind of ruthless and mean."