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September trial date set for former highway patrol trooper

12/10/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

LA CROSSE -- The trial of a former Kansas Highway Patrol trooper facing multiple felony charges won't be starting until late September.

Several legal issues in the case against 40-year-old Domingo Cardenas still need to be resolved, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a big block of time on District Judge Bruce Gatterman's docket.

Cardenas, who appeared in court late last week with his attorney, Greg Schwartz, was charged in July 2012 with eight felony counts. While the most serious charges include rape and aggravated criminal sodomy, the remaining six charges are aggravated indecent liberties with a child.

At Thursday's hearing in Rush County District Court, Gatterman set Jan. 31 to list arguments concerning a motion by Schwartz, seeking a series of electronic messages from law enforcement agencies.

Assistant Attorney General Nicole Romine, who is handling prosecution of the case, is objecting.

She's claiming the request is simply too broad, but emails she received from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are privileged and aren't available under normal discovery rules.

Romine's also claiming she doesn't represent the KBI or local law enforcement agencies involved in the case, effectively arguing Schwartz needs to file his requests with those agencies instead.

"I can't represent third parties, so I can't claim privilege," she said.

Schwartz said in the past, notes from law enforcement agencies could be sought and would be turned over to defense attorneys in a case.

"Now, as the court is well aware of, everything is done by email," he said.

Gatterman didn't preclude the possibility of ruling either way, suggesting instead Romine take a look at the messages she's received from law enforcement to see if they would be considered privileged under trial rules.

He also asked Schwartz to address the issues in a legal brief, and make his request for information from other agencies, directly to them.

"That gives the agency the opportunity to file a motion to quash," Gatterman said.

While Thursday's hearing was designed to take up pretrial issues as well as set a trial date, Gatterman suggested they go ahead with scheduling a trial because of the court's tight schedule.

Based on estimates of the trial lasting as long as 2.5 weeks, he said the earliest available block of time was Sept. 29. He set aside three weeks for the trial, ending Oct. 17.