16th Judicial District candidate Michael Giardine says he did not know about the nine-year-old charge but when he did flew to Michigan to clear his name.
A nine-year-old charge for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and an associated warrant for the arrest of 16th Judicial District candidate Michael J. Giardine were dismissed, Monday, during a trip to Michigan to clear his name of the crime he said he did not know about or commit.
Giardine, one of the two Republican candidates running for the position, said he first learned of the charge and associated warrant when contacted by a Globe reporter on July 15.
Giardine immediately hired an attorney in Michigan and worked with the Ingham County prosecutor to address the charge. The possession charge was dismissed and in its place Giardine accepted a misdemeanor charge for "disorderly person, jostling" to close the issue.
"I'm not going to take the risk of having a drug conviction on my record. To me, that was better than making multiple trips to Michigan paying thousands of dollars and running the risk," Giardine said, Tuesday.
Ultimately, he said, the case would have come down to a patrol officer's near-decade old recollection of the event.
Giardine said he was not the person stopped during the March 20, 2005, incident in Lansing and that his Michigan resident identification card had been stolen before that date.
In the police report, Lansing Police Department Officer Antonio Sandoval indicated that he stopped a person identified as Giardine during a "Terry stop" at 3:33 a.m. A Terry stop is brief detention of a person by a law enforcement officer if the officer claims a "reasonable suspicion" but lacks the more solid "probable cause" necessary to make an arrest.
In the report, the officer claimed he asked the subject, who at the time of contact was wearing a "black knit hat and sunglasses" and walking down the street, if he was doing anything illegal. The individual said that he was not.
"I asked the accused if he minded if I checked," the officer wrote in the report. "The accused stated, 'No.' I asked the accused if he minded if I checked. The accused stated, 'Yes, I mind.' During my pat down of the accused's right front jacket pocket I felt something that I thought was a box cutter. I asked the accused what it was in his pocket for my safety. The accused stated, 'It's drugs. It's marijuana.'"
The officer reported that he put the subject in handcuffs and confiscated 5.56 grams of marijuana. The officer said what he thought had been a box cutter was a pack of "Zig Zag" rolling papers.
The officer did not how he identified Giardine, only writing "I identified the accused and released him." The misdemeanor complaint filed by the officer to the district court contained Giardine's correct date of birth and address. The report does not indicate if the subject was cited on the scene.
A warrant for Giardine's arrest was filed on July 1, 2005, where it lingered until an hour after a Globe reporter received a copy of the charging document and a list of outstanding warrants available from the Lansing government website. The documents were provided by a person granted confidentiality by the reporter as a condition for receiving the information.
Copies of the documents were sent later in the week and on Monday morning to members of the news media and to several justice system agencies including the Dodge City Police Department, Clark County Sheriff's Office and the court clerks of Meade County and Kiowa County.
Some versions of the packet include a letter calling Giardine a "fugitive from justice" and a copy of a page from a "blue book" directory listing his position with the Curtis E. Campbell law firm in Cimarron, a publication typically owned by members of the legal profession.
The packet also included a blank copy of the application for admission to the Kansas bar association, a document Giardine and all licensed attorneys in Kansas must sign and have notarized.
In the questionnaire, aspiring Kansas attorneys are asked if they have ever been "summoned, charged, arrested, taken into custody, or indicted for any felony, misdemeanor, or infraction of the law excluding minor traffic infractions."
Had he known of the Michigan charge, Giardine said he would have admitted to it, as he did with another misdemeanor he received prior to attending law school. The applications are confidential and not available for public scrutiny.
"As soon as I found out there was a warrant issued for my name I reported it immediately to the appropriate authority," Giardine said. "I've never withheld anything from the bar association and I don't plan on doing it in the future."
Information regarding ethical or legal violation investigations by attorneys is confidential, according to Lisa Taylor, the Kansas Supreme Court's public information officer.
Since the warrant was issued in 2005, Giardine has been subjected to numerous background checks including a check performed by the Kansas Supreme Court after he registered to take the bar exam. Giardine took the exam in February of 2006 and was licensed to practice law in Kansas that April.
If Giardine registered to take the exam prior to July 1, 2005, he would have been subjected to a background check performed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. After that date, applicants were also subjected to a background check by the FBI which would have returned notice of any outstanding warrants and criminal histories, assuming the information had been filed correctly and in time.
Giardine said he was also subjected to a background check when he took a job in Wyandotte County prior to passing the Kansas bar exam, received a U.S. passport and a private pilot's license. Presumably, none of those background checks returned notice of an outstanding warrant.
Giardine is a Gray County prosecutor and the judge of the Dodge City Municipal Court. In his experience, suspects presenting stolen or false identifications are relatively common in Dodge City.
The incident puts at risk his reputation and career in the local legal community, Giardine said. "Its nine years' worth of work discredited and vilified for something that happened nine years ago," he said.
"It gives me a lot more perspective, and if there's a silver lining, it makes me a more well- rounded prosecutor." Professionals in the justice system work with people who are often at the lowest point in their lives, he said. "There's a lot of gray area. It's not all black and white. This gives me a perspective on working with people who are in a bad situation."
Correction: A previous version of this article was incorrect on the date the Globe received the information, that day was Tuesday, July 15, not July 14. An error introduced while editing also removed the word "investigations" regarding suspected violations of attorneys' ethical or legal violations.