Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dog trainer pleads guilty to gun charges

Former volunteer now faces federal prison for LCF escape plot

March 29, 2007

— The dog trainer who helped an inmate escape from the Lansing Correctional Facility entered a guilty plea for a federal charge of providing a felon and fugitive with firearms.

Toby Young, 49, pleaded guilty Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kan., before Chief Judge John W. Lungstrum. Young faces up to 10 years in federal prison and is scheduled for sentencing June 18.

Young was president of the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program at the Lansing Correctional Facility, where she was a regular visitor.

She helped John Manard, a 28-year-old prisoner who was convicted in a 1996 murder, escape from the prison Feb. 12, 2006. Manard sneaked out in a dog crate loaded up in Young's van.

Young, who is already serving a 21-month sentence on state charges of aiding and abetting a prison escape, was brought up on the federal charge because Manard came in possession of two guns that belonged to Young's husband - guns he obtained at her Kansas City, Kan., home shortly after the escape.

Young told the court Wednesday that she hated guns and did not give Manard the handguns - a .38-cal. and a 9-mm Glock - from her home.

"I never told anyone I gave him the guns," Young said in court.

Young said there were guns in the home because other members of her family are hunters.

Nevertheless, her attorney, Mike Harris, said the fact that Manard had the guns and Young did nothing about it still put her in violation of the law.

"She knew Manard had her guns and she allowed that to go on," Harris, a federal public defender, told the court.

Young and Manard then traveled to Tennessee where they stayed in a remote cabin until they were arrested Feb. 24, 2006, following a brief car chase with authorities on an interstate between Chattanooga and Knoxville.

The arrest brought to an end an elaborate escape plan the two hatched in December 2005. Assistant U.S. attorney Terra Morehead outlined several details in court about how Young and Manard arranged the escape plan.

Young opened a bank account with Capital Federal Savings on Jan. 17, 2006. Shortly afterward, she wrote a check to a Wal-Mart for two cell phones, one of which Young gave to Manard in prison.

That allowed the two to communicate while Manard stayed in prison, according to Morehead.

The two made their way to Tennessee, Morehead said, with a recently purchased 1997 Chevrolet Silverado from a used car shop in Independence, Mo., and "significant amounts of cash."

Young entered the courtroom Wednesday wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with a blue long-sleeved shirt underneath. Her hair was cropped shorter than in previous court appearances. She appeared to be in good spirits before the hearing started. She chatted and laughed with about 10 supporters who were seated in the courtroom near where Young and her attorney waited for the hearing to begin. At one point, she mentioned that she walks a quarter of a mile each day to get exercise.

Young gave Judge Lungstrum mostly one-word responses to his questions, but her voice began to quaver when asked to explain her version of how Manard came across the handguns.

"I hate guns with a passion," she said.

Her supporters declined to comment following the hearing.

In addition to facing up to 10 years in prison, Young could get sentenced to as many as three years of supervised release and up to $250,000 in fines.

Manard pleaded guilty to felony escape and was sentenced Feb. 2 to 130 months in prison. He was previously serving a life sentence for the first-degree murder of a man in Overland Park in 1996. Manard is serving his sentence in the Lansing Correction Facility.

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