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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Trial begins in assault, drug case

  • A trial began Monday for a man accused of pointing a gun at a police officer during a drug search at a Leavenworth residence.
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  • A trial began Monday for a man accused of pointing a gun at a police officer during a drug search at a Leavenworth residence.
    John James Baskas was shot when he allegedly pointed the gun at an officer June 21, 2011 at a residence at 1104 N. 12th St. He survived his injuries and now faces charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, violating the drug tax stamp law, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
    Jury selection for his trial began Monday morning, and testimony started in the afternoon.
    During the opening statement for the prosecution, Assistant County Attorney Michael Jones said Leavenworth police Sgt. Neil Vogel fired at Baskas as the defendant allegedly pointed a gun at the officer. Baskas was wounded in the arm and stomach.
    Jones said the police had announced their presence and were dressed in uniforms that could not be mistaken for anything other than police uniforms.
    During the defense opening statement, Edward Gillette, an attorney for Baskas, said the case is not difficult. The attorney admitted there were marijuana and firearms in the residence.
    But Gillette said his client had no criminal history and was not a big-time drug dealer. Gillette also argued that Baskas had thought his house was being robbed at the time of the police search.
    "That's why John had a gun," Gillette said.
    Gillette said his client was the victim.
    The defense attorney said the execution of the search warrant at the residence had been a colossal disaster in terms of strategic planning. He said police had not known his client was in the home. Baskas' parents also lived at the residence.
    Gillette said the police know they "screwed up big time."
    Three prosecution witnesses testified Monday before the trial was recessed for the day.
    The first witness was police Detective Matthew Nickel. He testified about several items that were seized at the residence during the search. Prosecutors indicated they plan to call Nickel to provide additional testimony later in the trial.
    Beth Royel, a forensic scientist with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, testified that she analyzed the items Nickel had discussed during his testimony, and she had detected the presence of marijuana.
    Royel acknowledged that 12 plants also had been submitted to the KBI but were not tested. She said it is not unusual for some items to not be tested by the KBI.
    The final witness of the day was police Sgt. Roger Hundley. He testified about the Leavenworth Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics Team, which was used for the execution of the search warrant June 21, 2011.
    He said when the SWAT Team executes a search warrant, a member pounds on the outside of the residence and yells "Police Department search warrant" three times before officers make entry into the home. After the officers enter the residence, they say, "Police Department search warrant" over and over.
    Page 2 of 2 - Hundley discussed the uniforms worn by members of the SWAT Team.
    He was asked about officers wearing masks. He said officers who set off noise-flash diversionary devices may wear Nomex hoods because the hoods are flame resistant. He said an investigator also may wear a hood if he's entering the residence in order to hide his identity. But he said members of the SWAT Team normally do not wear the hoods.
    Hundley said he didn't recall Vogel wearing a mask, or Nomex hood, the day of the search warrant but can't say 100 percent for sure.
    The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.
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