WaKEENEY — The former WaKeeney police chief pleaded guilty to a reduced charge for which he will serve 12 months probation, and agreed to a diversion agreement on another charge Monday morning in Trego County District Court, with all other charges dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Terry Eberle entered a guilty Alford plea to a charge of official misconduct, a severity level 8 nonperson felony.
In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit to the criminal act but recognizes there is enough evidence to convict at trial or there are other circumstances.
In this case, Eberle’s attorney, Paul Oller, said it was a question of Eberle spending thousands of dollars to defend himself versus simply serving a year probation and being done with the proceedings.
District Judge Blake Bittel agreed to depart from sentencing guidelines of 18 months probation, citing Eberle’s clean criminal record. His probation will be supervised by Community Corrections.
The diversion agreement pertains to a charge of perjury that was filed Dec. 14 along with a second count of perjury and eight counts of making false information after further investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
In the diversionary agreement filed in court today, Trego County Attorney Chris Lyon included portions of transcripts from court proceedings Eberle had testified in as police chief.
In those transcripts, Eberle is questioned about recording interviews and conversations.
In Eberle’s preliminary hearing in November, KBI Senior Special Agent Joby Harrison, the case agent in charge of the investigation, testified that among the items seized from execution of search warrants was an audio recording of Eberle and WaKeeeney City Administrator Hardy Howard.
Harrison testified the recorded conversation sounded as if Eberle was trying to solicit information from Howard on any alleged crimes he had committed while in his job. Harrison said it sounded like a recording of several conversations, but could not tell when they had been made.
In the transcripts quoted in the diversion agreement, Eberle said he’s never recorded conversations.
In a 2014 case, a defense attorney asked Eberle if there was a reason a conversation in that case was not recorded.
“Other than in my line of law enforcement experience, I’ve never recorded anybody. I guess the new school, if you would put it as that, does record everything. I didn’t record it,” Eberle is quoted as replying in the transcript.
In other transcripts included in the document, Eberle testified in other cases he was not familiar with the recording equipment in the WaKeeney Police Department, such as a webcam or his smartphone to use for audio recording. He also states in one transcript it was not department policy to record interviews prior to 2014.
The document then outlines several investigations in 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014 where the WaKeeney police recorded interviews with a webcam, and that Eberle was present during some of those interviews.
The diversion agreement is an acknowledgment of guilt to the perjury charge. Through the five-year, unsupervised term of the diversion, if Eberle is convicted of any felony, misdemeanor or traffic infraction, he could face trial on the perjury charge.
The remaining perjury charge and making false information charges were dropped.
Eberle originally was arrested and charged in May with blackmail, harassment by telecommunications device, attempted interference with law enforcement, intimidation of a witness or victim, tampering with a public record, and two counts each of theft, attempted official misconduct and making false information.
The blackmail, harassment, attempted interference with law enforcement, and intimidation of a witness or victim charges stem from Eberle allegedly making a phone call to Trego County Emergency Management Director Kathleen Fabrizius, trying to persuade her to lie in a statement to the Trego County Sheriff with intent to prevent or hinder the prosecution of Joshua Eberle — the former chief’s son — and threatening she could lose her job if she testified.
The charges of tampering with a public record and theft allege that Eberle changed records of employee work hours regarding overtime.