ERIE — Neosho County Sheriff Greg Taylor’s investigative pursuit of County Attorney Linus Thuston took a surreal turn during Tuesday’s Neosho County Commission meeting with the public airing of explosive allegations tied to a months-long criminal probe.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the CA’s office and alleged illicit activity by Thuston stems from complaints forwarded by Taylor to the KBI a year ago. Prior to that, the sheriff’s office had compiled complaints that were sent to the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator in Topeka for review. The end result was little to no admonishment.
Filling in as county counselor, Thuston was present for the latter portion of Tuesday’s meeting. Taylor was not listed on the official agenda, but appeared at the meeting shortly after Thuston’s arrival.
During a brief recess, Taylor was captured on livestream video interrogating Thuston in the capacity of the official investigation.
“Have you ever traded sexual favors or nude pictures for representing clients or for diversion for people that are charged here?” Taylor asked.
“No. Never,” Thuston replied.
Taylor asked about a woman whose daughter was presumably represented by Thuston.
“So when you’re asking her for nude images, that’s not for representation?” Taylor asked, while displaying a photo document to Thuston. Taylor further noted that a search warrant had recently been executed on Thuston’s Facebook account, which pertained to his question about the explicit images.
“No,” Thuston calmly replied. “That was almost a year after I had gotten out of the case.”
The two high-ranking county officials then stepped out into the hallway and out of earshot of the livestream.
In an interview with The Tribune Tuesday night, Thuston said Taylor’s questioning amounted to unfounded accusations.
“He asked if I had done things of a sexual nature with clients,” Thuston said.
“There has never been any sexual favors or anything exchanged with me as a fee for service. That has never happened. But, even if it had, it wouldn’t be a crime.”
Thuston insisted that the allegations apply exclusively to his private practice.
“The claims that he has made have nothing to do with me as county attorney. As county attorney, I represent the state of Kansas — that’s my only client,” Thuston said.
“The questions were in regard to my private practice. They weren’t about anybody I’ve prosecuted.”
Thuston said that Taylor also asked him about a former female client, who Thuston said he advised on the appropriate steps to resolve an arrest warrant. Thuston’s advice, however, was offered in his capacity as county attorney.
“Either you turn yourself in, or you make arrangements to take care of it,” Thuston recounted, adding that he could not be involved with the case beyond that insight.
While it was a Neosho County case, Thuston said that the former client visited him at a hotel in Wichita while he was in town for National Guard duties.
Taylor seemed to infer that the individual’s warrant was rescinded a short time after she paid a visit to his hotel, according to Thuston’s description of the questioning.
“(Taylor) said the person came by the hotel, and then so many days later the warrant was recalled,” Thuston said.
Thuston believes the warrant was resolved by following the letter of the law, and that his interaction with the person was merely a coincidence in relation to the recall of the warrant.
“I’m fairly certain the person came through and paid off the warrant,” he said.
Taylor told The Tribune on Wednesday that he was unable to divulge specifics of an ongoing investigation.
“Anything that I asked him is all an open criminal investigation, so I can’t make any comment,” Taylor said.
Thuston said several former clients have been swept into the investigation.
“(The sheriff) has been going around and interviewing clients of mine, asking them if I’ve ever taken any form of sexual favor, or something along those lines, in exchange for representation,” Thuston said, noting that multiple clients have informed him of this. “They’re focusing on anything and everything that they can. I’ve known about them coming around and asking people about this for the last 60 to 90 days, if not longer.”
While it was not picked up on video, Thuston said that Taylor also asked him if he had purchased a firearm from a former client who was a felon and residing in Wichita.
“Number one, I didn’t buy a gun. Number two, what would that have to do with anything in Neosho County?” Thuston said. “I never really even saw the gun, other than pictures.”
Thuston did not deny that he conversed with the former client about the weapon.
“I will tell you it was somebody that always was trying to see if I wanted a weapon,” Thuston said. “It was a former client from my private practice.”
Taylor declined to specify who authorized the search warrant for Thuston’s Facebook account. Thuston, meanwhile, disclosed the search warrant revelation to The Tribune and requested that it remain off the record, but Taylor had already brought it to light Tuesday.
“I’ve never cheated on my wife. But are there some things that my wife would probably be greatly disappointed about if she had heard some of the conversations I’ve had, or some things people have sent me,” Thuston said, seemingly referring to his private Facebook messages that were the subject of the search warrant. “Yeah, it’s embarrassing. But it’s not illegal.”
Thuston said the sexual exploitation element of the investigation broached by Taylor amounts to a last-ditch effort on the part of investigators.
Credit card misuse
While allegations of credit card misuse by Thuston were not new, Taylor indicated that he had received a report from the Attorney General’s office about the complaint. Taylor also mentioned personal or redacted expenditures made by Thuston that originated from the county attorney’s training fund.
Thuston confirmed with The Tribune that he was interviewed by the KBI roughly two months ago. In an interview last week, he denied knowledge of the KBI’s ongoing probe.
“(Taylor’s) question about the expenditure on PayPal, I was asked about by the KBI,” Thuston said.
While an amount was not specified, Thuston believes he inadvertently wired money to a personal acquaintance with a county-issued credit card in December 2019.
Thuston said he felt it was “suspicious” that Taylor was revisiting a topic that the KBI previously raised with him.
Change of venue
Thuston said he was surprised by Taylor’s public interrogation, as witnessed by multiple individuals in the county commission room.
“I actually assumed it was going to be about some type of case. I didn’t imagine it was going to be about me,” Thuston said. “So I was caught a little off-guard. I don’t think very many of us remember that the camera never shuts off in the commission room.”
Thuston felt Taylor’s grilling was not done in an appropriate venue.
“It would have been my preference that it occur in a private setting,” Thuston said. “When you watch it, the questions he’s asking are not about me as county attorney.”
Taylor indicated that the investigation is in the home stretch, and he seized upon an opportunity to interview Thuston. He added that Thuston has been reclusive in nature when it comes to Taylor’s investigation.
“He won’t return phone calls. He doesn’t return emails,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to finish up an investigation. He was there and I asked him if he would talk to me.”
A message left with the Attorney General’s office was not returned prior press time Wednesday evening.
UPDATE from Johh Milburn, AG Office public information officer: "Pursuant to K.S.A. 19-711, the Office of the Attorney General, and specifically Deputy Attorney General Steven Karrer, have been appointed as special prosecutor by 11th Judicial District Chief Judge Lori Fleming to review certain matters in Neosho County related to your inquiry. The investigation is ongoing and no prosecutorial decisions have been made. We have no further comment at this time."