Charges were dismissed Wednesday against two Salina men that authorities had alleged were conspiring to kill people in Illinois, and both were expected to be released from the Saline County Jail, where they had been held for about eight months.
Prosecutor Amy Norton, an assistant Saline County attorney, notified defense attorneys Charles O’Hara, who represented Xavier E. Lewis, 25, and Julie McKenna, who represented Xavier L. McCray, 22, that charges were being dismissed in a way that would allow them to be refiled.
The notification came on the morning of what was expected to be a third afternoon of testimony in a preliminary hearing on a charge that the men had conspired with Alex B. Karcher, 22, to commit capital murder “pursuant to a contract or agreement to kill” between July 27 and Aug. 1, 2016. The charge previously had been dismissed against Karcher, who has been indicted in Jackson County, Ill., for allegedly being involved in a drug ring with possible ties to the July 31 shooting of Carbondale police officer Trey Harris.
Neither McCray nor Lewis has been indicted in Illinois, their attorneys said.
“I’m not able to proceed with the evidence I have at this time,” Norton said, declining to elaborate on the decision.
McKenna provided the Journal with a copy of the email she and O’Hara received from Norton.
“After careful consideration last night of the remaining witnesses I have available, and their expected testimony, I have come to the conclusion that I will be unable to proceed against your clients at this time,” the email reads. “I had hoped for more cooperation from Illinois than has been forthcoming.”
Norton said McKenna acted unprofessionally by providing her email to the Journal. She declined to elaborate on what cooperation she was seeking from Illinois.
Transcript of testimony requested
Saline County District Judge Rene Young began hearing testimony in the preliminary hearing in February. During a second day of testimony April 3, a witness mentioned that he had testified before a grand jury in Carbondale, Ill., and McKenna and O’Hara demanded a transcript of that testimony. Norton said she would request that the document be unsealed for the Kansas court’s use and hoped to have it when testimony resumed Wednesday.
O’Hara, of Wichita, said he appreciated Norton letting him know before he drove to Salina for the hearing. He said that after Lewis was released from the Saline County Jail, he went to Wichita to see O’Hara.
“I have spoken to Mr. Lewis, and he was very happy to be released,” O’Hara said. “His child was very happy to see him.”
O’Hara said there are rules that govern what he is allowed to say about cases.
“There’s probably a lot I’d like to say about this case, but I’m not going to say it,” he said.
McCray faces drug charges
The bond amount for McCray and Lewis initially was set at $1 million, and Young dropped it to $500,000 when the preliminary hearing continued into a second day. Both men stayed in jail from the time of their arrests in August until Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Young reinstated an $80,000 bond for McCray, who still faces drug charges in a separate case. McCray is accused of possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute on Feb. 10, 2016, and possessing a Rock Island 9 mm firearm and a stolen Smith & Wesson pistol, as well as other charges. McKenna said she expected him to be released from jail Wednesday afternoon on the reduced bond.
McKenna said it was unfair that McCray and Lewis had to spend more than eight months in jail when the evidence of a conspiracy wasn’t there. She said that became clear during witness testimony during the first two days of the preliminary hearing.
McKenna said she wishes prosecutors had given a hard look at the evidence sooner.
“I wish they’d done it before they filed on these kids and scooped them up and threw their life off track for the past eight months,” McKenna said. “That’s what I wish would have happened, but it didn’t.”