Shawnee County DA pushes back on Congressman Watkins’ request to remove him from investigation

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – District Attorney Mike Kagay is pushing back against Congressman Steve Watkins’ request to have him removed from his case, after the prosecutor charged Watkins with felony voter fraud.

The charges are in relation to an investigation into the congressman and the incorrect information he provided while voting in a 2019 election.

Days later an attorney for Congressman Watkins filed a motion to disqualify Kagay from prosecuting the charges, accusing him of a conflict of interest.

On Monday Kagay’s office responded saying, “The fact that the Defendant would prefer not to be prosecuted at this time or at all does not entitle him to disqualification of the District Attorney or his office. The motion fails to allege facts which would show a conflict of interest actually exists and that it is so grave as to render it unlikely that the defendant will receive fair treatment during all portions of the criminal proceedings.”

Congressman Watkins accused the District Attorney of ‘suspicious timing’ and of being connected to his political rival Jake LaTurner, giving him a hidden agenda.

In the response Kagay’s team addressed both points.

They laid out a timeline of the investigation, which details a lengthy investigation impacted by difficulties scheduling an in person interview with Watkins and court limitations because of the pandemic.

The timeline said that in an interview with the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, Watkins told a detective that it was actually one of his staffers who put down an incorrect address on the voting documents.

It also said on June 30 Watkins’ attorney requested that the district attorney’s Office delay their investigation so they wouldn’t affect the upcoming election. They said they would not rush or delay an investigation just because it’s an election year.

The district attorney’s office also addressed what they called “alleged political relationships” with Jake LaTurner.

Their response said Kagay and LaTurner only met once briefly and have never discussed the investigation or any political issues.

They also said the consulting group ‘Singularis Group’ Watkins’ pointed to as a political connection was only used by the district attorney once and is also used by thousands of different candidates.

The response concluded by saying Watkins’ motion is “without merit” and does not demonstrate “a disqualifying conflict of interest.”

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