Judge refuses to dismiss charges against county commissioner
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rejected defense arguments that the U.S. government needlessly interjected itself in matters traditionally reserved for states when it charged a Sedgwick County commissioner with fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutors have accused Michael O’Donnell of fraudulently obtaining $10,500 from his campaign accounts for his personal use during his races for the county commission and the Kansas Legislature.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren ruled that the defense team had not provided any reasons he could dismiss the charges under federal procedures.
The Wichita Eagle reported Melgren was highly critical of the defense contention that the federal charges should be dismissed because O’Donnell could have been charged under state law regulating the alleged campaign finance violations.
He noted gun and drug cases make up the majority of his federal caseload even though the same violations could be charged under state law.
In May, O’Donnell pleaded not guilty to the initial 12-count indictment charging him with wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering for allegedly stealing from his campaign accounts.
The expanded 26-count indictment this week charges him with wire fraud and money laundering but drops the earlier bank fraud counts and some wire fraud charges related to reports filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
His first court appearance to enter a plea on that new indictment is Aug. 28.
O’Donnell, a Wichita Republican, was elected to the state Senate in 2012 for a term that ended in January 2017. He did not run for re-election and instead was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission. The term is set to expire in 2020.
He remains free on bond and continues to serve as county commissioner.