Newell hearing continued to Jan. 20

The preliminary hearing scheduled Dec. 16 in Wichita for disabled U.S. Army veteran Ryan J. Newell, 26, of Marion, has been continued to Jan. 20.

Newell is charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, and five misdemeanor counts of stalking, criminal use of weapons and false impersonation related to the Nov. 30 incident in?Wichita involving some Westboro Baptist Church members.

The continuance was requested by Newell?s attorney, Boyd McPherson with Joseph & Hollander, Wichita, according to Georgia Cole, communications director, Sedgwick County District Attorney?s office.

?It would be highly unusual for an attorney not to ask for a continuance (once the initial hearing date is set),? Cole said.

Following his arrest Nov. 30, Newell was charged Dec. 2 with five misdemeanor offenses in the 18th Judicial District Court of Sedgwick County. Charges were upgraded Dec. 3 to include the felony charge.

The major difference between misdemeanor and felony charges, Cole said, is the offender, if convicted of a misdemeanor, would serve time in the county jail and in state prison if convicted of a felony.

According to Kansas law, aggravated assault is when a person uses a deadly weapon while disguised in a way to hide his or her identity and has the intent to commit a felony.

Someone convicted of aggravated assault could face a maximum prison term of 34 months and maximum fine of $5,000.

Newell?s preliminary hearing Jan. 20, Cole said, will be to determine whether the Sedgwick County District Attorney?s office has enough evidence to arraign him on the one felony and five misdemeanor charges.

If there is enough probable cause then Newell would have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty and a trial date would be scheduled.

The arrest

According to previous information about the incident, a sheriff?s detective became suspicious of Newell, who was allegedly following a vehicle carrying Westboro Baptist Church members too closely after a protest at Mulvane High School.

According to Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw, the detective stopped Newell on Kansas Highway 15. Newell was alleged to have told the detective he was with the group, and was allowed to leave.

Later in the morning Nov. 30, the detective contacted members of the Westboro group who were at Wichita City Hall to meet with police officers. During that meeting, WBC members told the detective Newell was not part of their group.

Based on that information, the detective stopped Newell a second time. Newell showed identification indicating he was a reserve law enforcement officer in another county. The detectives then checked the validity of Newell?s explanation and discovered he was driving on a revoked license and was not a reserve officer.

The original detective and two other detectives then went across the street to city hall where Newell was parked. In his vehicle, detectives found two handguns, a rifle and more than 90 rounds of ammunition. He was arrested and bail was set at $500,000.

At his arraignment Dec. 2 in district court, Newell was charged with the five misdemeanors and a bench trial was scheduled for Dec. 16, which is standard procedure in misdemeanor cases, Cole said.

Because the investigation is ongoing, she said, the felony charge was added when authorities became aware of more evidence pointing to the alleged conspiracy charge.

One week after his arrest, Judge Ben Burgess released Newell to his attorney on the condition that Newell would go immediately to the Veterans Administration for treatment.

Even though Newell was released to this attorney, his bond was still set at $500,000.

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