WICHITA, Kan. – Attorneys for an abortion provider facing criminal charges questioned the former attorney general Monday, trying to show that the abortion opponent who started the investigation had intended to prosecute Dr. George Tiller even before taking office.
Tiller attorney Dan Monnat asked former Attorney General Phill Kline whether, during his campaign, he assumed that Tiller, one of the few U.S. physicians performing late-term abortions, was breaking the law.
"I had reason to believe that he was," Kline said. "My belief was that the law was not being enforced."
Kline took the stand Monday at a hearing where Tiller's attorneys are urging a judge to dismiss the charges against their client or suppress evidence linked to Kline.
Tiller is to go to trial in March on 19 misdemeanors. He's accused of failing to obtain a second opinion from an independent physician for some late-term abortions.
Monnat questioned Kline about his opposition to abortion, and Kline acknowledged that he personally would like to see all abortions banned.
"You wanted to do something about it," Monnat said.
Kline replied: "I wanted to enforce the law."
Monnat also questioned Kline about hiring anti-abortion activist Bryan Brown as his consumer protection chief in the attorney general's office.
During his unsuccessful 2006 bid for re-election, Kline had asserted that Brown, who has been arrested a dozen times during abortion protests, was not involved in the Tiller prosecution. However, defense attorneys produced a 2003 memo Brown wrote with the subject line, "abortion clinic overview."
Kline conceded that Brown helped with the facts of the case but insisted Brown did not consult on matters of law.
The defense also pointed to a 2004 memo advising Kline that Brown and his contacts were obtaining the names of employees at two clinics. Kline defended the use of Brown and other anti-abortion activists, saying it's "normal law enforcement procedure" to use witnesses in investigations.
Tiller's attorneys have accused Kline of "outrageous" conduct, including intentionally misleading judges and state agencies, and argue that his actions poisoned the entire case. Kline says Tiller is simply trying to avoid prosecution.
Tiller has largely skipped hearings in his case, but the Wichita doctor was in court Monday, occasionally taking a note or doodling on a yellow legal pad.
Kline testified for about three hours Monday and is expected to testify again Friday.
Kline filed charges against Tiller before leaving office, but a judge threw them out. The charges Tiller now faces were filed by Kline's successor, Paul Morrison, though the case rests partly on evidence Kline gathered.
Morrison later resigned in a sex scandal that Tiller's attorneys also have raised as an issue. They argue that Morrison was pressured into filing charges by his mistress, then working for Kline, who by that time had taken Morrison's old job as Johnson County's district attorney.
Monnat argued that Tiller and women's privacy rights are "pawns" in an unwarranted prosecution that has its roots in Kline's opposition to abortion. He said neither Morrison nor the currently attorney general, Steve Six, can escape the "taint."
Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney said Tiller's attorneys have a high burden in trying to show that Kline's conduct warrants suppression of the evidence. If they're trying to show that the prosecution of Tiller is selective, Disney said, they face the reality that Tiller is "uniquely situated" because he performs late-term abortions.
"What we would like to do in this case is take away all that publicity and all that excitement and focus on the law," Disney told the judge.