The former top administrator of Kansas' juvenile correctional facility entered a no-contest plea Friday in Shawnee County District Court to bring an end to the criminal case spawned by his tirade about lack of staff volunteers for an inmate Christmas party.
Kyle Rohr, who was superintendent of the Kansas Juvenile Correction Complex in Topeka, agreed prosecutors had sufficient evidence to prove he engaged in disorderly conduct in December 2017 during a dispute with a subordinate at the facility. He was found guilty of battery by a municipal court judge in 2018 but appealed to the district court in anticipation of a jury trial.
Instead of the trial starting Monday, Rohr entered the plea before Judge Jason Geier.
"No contest, your honor," Rohr said.
The victim in the case, Michelle Valdivia, said she disagreed with the unilateral decision by Karan Thadani, chief of prosecution for the City of Topeka, to negotiate the plea bargain with Rohr. At the courthouse, Valdivia said she would have preferred Thadani take Rohr to trial on the original charge of battery, despite the potential for an acquittal.
"I was willing to take my chances," Valdivia said. "We got a guilty verdict (in municipal court). I didn't feel the need to back down."
Thadani said evidence indicated that on Dec. 21, 2017, Rohr expressed anger, directed at Valdivia, about lack of planning and the insufficient number of volunteers for a Christmas party staged for juveniles incarcerated by the state.
"As a result of that frustration," the prosecutor told the judge, "he began to scream and yell profanities at a subordinate employee. He continued to follow her around and act in that same manner."
He said about 20 corrections employees witnessed at least part of the verbal exchange. Valdivia alleged Rohr, in a private office, twice grabbed her in an attempt to twist her body around. That physical contact eventually resulted in Rohr being charged and convicted of battery in municipal court.
Topeka attorney Tom Lemon, who represented Rohr, told the judge witness testimony available to the prosecution could have led to conviction of Rohr on a charge of disorderly conduct. Lemon didn't address evidence in terms of battery.
Both Class C battery and Class B disorderly conduct are misdemeanors, but the penalty for battery would be more than the $100 fine imposed by the district court on Rohr. The court ordered Rohr to complete a 12-hour course in anger management, which Lemon said Rohr had already done.
Initially, Valdivia's complaint about Rohr was dismissed by Kansas Department of Corrections officials. In February 2018, more than a dozen members of the Kansas Legislature requested Rohr be fired. Rohr was reassigned to the department's central office until convicted of battery in July 2018, when he was given the choice of resignation or dismissal.
Rohr worked at correctional facilities in Ellsworth, Larned and Topeka. While his battery conviction was on appeal, the Kansas Department of Administration placed Rohr on the state payroll from August to December 2018.