DWI charge against Kansas City council candidate dropped after arresting officer fired

Kansas City Councilwoman Melissa Patterson Hazley

A drunken driving charge against Kansas City Council candidate Melissa Patterson Hazley was dropped Wednesday before it came to trial because one of the arresting officers was fired and no longer available to testify against her and others he’d arrested in at least 37 other cases, the Clay County prosecutor’s office said.

Patterson Hazley was charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated last year after an Aug. 20 traffic stop. According to the citation, an Excelsior Springs police officer pulled her over around 10:20 that night after noticing that her 2012 Mercedes 350 was driving on the right shoulder and almost left the roadway.

A Clay County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the department’s drunken driving unit assisted in the arrest. Patterson Hazley allegedly refused a breath test when he attempted to administer it. The Missouri Department of Revenue sought to revoke her license for a year for failing to submit to a chemical test of her blood/alcohol level as required by law.

Patterson Hazley petitioned the revenue department to keep her license in force until the DWI case came to trial. In that court document, she denied that she refused to take a breath test and said she was improperly arrested because the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe she was intoxicated.

Court records show that she pleaded guilty last fall to two other citations issued on the night of the traffic stop, paying a $50 fine for having expired license plates and $175 for defective equipment.

The case might have come to trial earlier, but a judge granted her attorney’s multiple requests to delay hearing the case over the past nine months. Two weeks before this week’s scheduled hearing, the Clay County sheriff’s deputy who assisted in the DWI arrest was fired on May 16.

“The Reporting Officer on that case is no longer employed by the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and is not available as a witness in the case. As such, the case … was dismissed this morning along with a number of other cases on which the same witness was the Reporting Officer,” Alexander Higginbotham, a spokesman for the Clay County prosecutor’s office, said in an email on Wednesday.

He was checking on Thursday at The Star’s request to determine how many cases have been thrown out that relied on the testimony of former deputy, Keagon Reed. Later that day, he reported that “as of this time, our office has dismissed the cases of approximately 38 defendants. Some of those defendants had more than one citation. Our office continues to review each case on which Officer Reed is an essential witness in order to take appropriate action.”

Reed was recently the subject of an internal investigation by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, which has since turned the case over to the Missouri Highway Patrol for further review “to determine whether there’s any criminal element to what took place,” said Sarah Boyd, public relations manager for the sheriff’s department.

“There’s not a whole lot else we can say right now,” Boyd said. “I’m not privy to what the investigation covered, but I know what it covered initially, or what started it initially, was one particular incident on a traffic stop. And so I don’t know what they found further reaching stuff than that, that I’m not privy to that information. But he was assigned to the Traffic Safety Unit and his job was DUI enforcement.”

According to the sheriff office’s 2022 annual report, Reed made 151 of the 203 driving-while-intoxicated arrests Clay County made that year, “earning him recognition by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Missouri Department of Transportation.”

When contacted by phone, Reed declined comment and the attorney representing him on retainer with the Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment.

Patterson Hazley is running to unseat incumbent Brandon Ellington for the 3rd District at-large seat on the city council. She outperformed him in the April primary, garnering 63% of the vote, and will face him again in the general election on June 20. All candidates who received more than 50 percent of the primary vote in the three previous election cycles went on to win the general.

When asked about the DWI charge during an interview last month, Patterson Hazley acknowledged that she had been drinking that night. “It was the most expensive, embarrassing, inconvenient free Chardonnay I’ve had in my entire life,” she said.

Her litigation against the Department of Revenue remains pending.

This story was updated to include information about the arresting officer’s firing.