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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Charges added in manslaughter case

  • A judge has allowed additional charges to be filed against a woman who recently was granted a new trial in a manslaughter case.
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  • A judge has allowed additional charges to be filed against a woman who recently was granted a new trial in a manslaughter case.
    Monica F. Rivera, 31, already was facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child. And a judge granted a request Thursday for the prosecution to add charges of possession of a hallucinogenic drug and possession of drug paraphernalia, both misdemeanors.
    Rivera was convicted in August 2010 of involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child. She later was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
    Her 4-year-old son reportedly died in 2009 from blunt force trauma after he was left in the care of Rivera's fiancé, Jason L. Jones. The incident occurred in Leavenworth.
    Jones was sentenced in 2010 to more than 38 years in prison for the second-degree murder of the boy.
    During Rivera's 2010 trial, the prosecution argued Jones had abused the boy prior to his death. And Rivera had endangered her son by leaving him in Jones' care.
    The defense argued Rivera had never seen Jones abuse her son. And at least some injuries the boy suffered prior to his death resulted from accidents.
    In December, the Kansas Court of Appeals released a decision ordering a new trial in Rivera's case. The judges of the Court of Appeals found that errors had been made in instructions provided to jurors during the 2010 trial.
    Rivera's new trial is scheduled for June 24 in Leavenworth County District Court.
    Defense attorney Elaine Halley objected to the additional misdemeanor charges. But Assistant County Attorney Cheryl Marquardt, who is prosecuting the case, said Thursday that the Kansas Supreme Court consistently has held that the prosecution can amend criminal complaints prior to trial.
    Marquardt said the prosecution intended to file the additional charges as a separate case if it was barred from including them in the existing case.
    She said it was best for judicial economy to proceed with all matters as one case.
    Halley said the law gives a judge discretion in allowing complaints to be amended. She argued the additional charges would be prejudicial against the defendant.
    She also argued the action could harm Rivera's right to a speedy trial. She said the number of prosecution witnesses has grown.
    Halley said the defense may need to hire an investigator as well as do additional research and file more motions. She said there's a possibility the defense will need an expert witness.
    She said it would have a chilling effect for future defendants contemplating an appeal because they could end up facing more prison time with the addition of new charges.
    District Judge Gunnar Sundby said the prosecution has the authority to seek amendments to criminal complaints.
    Page 2 of 2 - He said when a case has been as thoroughly reviewed as this one, it sometimes becomes evident that charges could have been filed but weren't.
    He said the issue of illegal substances previously had come up.
    "Obviously, this is not new evidence," he said.
    Sundby said there's always a risk when a case is remanded for a new trial that the prosecution will file additional charges. Sundby said he doesn't know that this results in a chilling effect.
    "It's just the reality of what happens," he said.
    Also Thursday, Halley asked that her client be released from bond supervision. The attorney said Rivera has been on supervision while on bond for about two months.
    Halley said Rivera has found a job and needs to be released from the supervision to enable her to work at this job.
    Marquardt requested that Rivera remain on supervision. The prosecutor said she's sure arrangements can be made to allow Rivera to go to the job.
    Sundby said he would check with Court Services, which handles the supervision, and issue a ruling in writing.
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