Attorneys: Costs, mistrust delaying Mohler trials

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Shocking tales of ritual sex abuse on a western Missouri farm made national headlines two years ago and sent six members of the same family to jail as accused child molesters.

Today, one of the men is dead, another is battling serious health problems and the lives of the others are on hold in a case in which the primary evidence against them are the stories of six younger family members who said they didn’t remember the alleged crimes until three years ago.

Even with the death of Darrel Mohler at his Florida home last month, there are still five defendants — two of whom remain behind bars — scheduled to go to trial in three different counties sometime in 2012.

Burrell Mohler Sr. and his sons Burrell Jr., David, Jared and Roland Mohler, are facing dozens of counts of rape and sodomy for acts young family members say they committed more than 25 years ago.

Costs are becoming an issue and the alleged victims are reluctant to turn over records from mental health counseling that might have helped them retrieve some of the memories repressed for decades.

Lafayette County Attorney Kellie Wingate Campbell has acknowledged delays in providing defense attorneys with some records, even as the first scheduled trial is less than two months away.

“The state believes the victims were stunned by the massive media and Internet coverage in the case and have serious concerns about privacy, in particular that personal records and information could be made public if made available to defendants,” Campbell said in response to a motion filed in late August by Kimberly Benjamin, attorney for Burrell Mohler Sr.

Defense attorneys responded that all personal information about the victims, and the gruesome details of their alleged abuse, was provided by the state in legal documents. The Associated Press found a list of all the accusers, including their full names and where they currently live, near the top of one of the Mohler men’s court records.

“The state has attempted to explain delays by stating accusers do not have confidence in the protection of privacy provided by the protection order, resulting in reluctance to response to requests for information,” George Jones, a Lamoni, Iowa, attorney representing David Mohler, said in an Oct. 21 motion. “Yet the state and associated agencies are the sources of all documented releases of accusers’ personal information to the press and the public.”

Court dates for all of the defendants have repeatedly been scheduled, then pushed back because of the massive amount of evidence that must be collected and shared with all five remaining attorneys.

Campbell has declined to comment on the case, while defense attorneys either don’t return calls from The Associated Press or refer to motions they’ve filed in court to present their side.

Burrell Mohler Sr., his brother Darrel and four of Mohler Sr.’s sons were charged in November 2009 with dozens of counts of rape and other charges after family members told investigators they were abused as children on a farm south of Bates City, 30 minutes east of Kansas City, over several years beginning in the mid-1980s.

At least four young relatives of the Mohlers claim the men took turns raping them over several years, including some assaults that happened after patriarch Burrell Sr., an ordained minister, conducted wedding ceremonies to “marry” the young girls to the older Mohler men so they could have sex.

There also are claims that some of the girls were forced to have sex with a horse and a dog.

The accusers said the abuse started when they were very young, in some as young as 5 years old, and they had repressed the memories for more than 20 years.

The eldest Mohler and his son, Burrell Mohler Jr., 55, also known as Ed, remain behind bars. Darrel Mohler was free on bond when he died last month at his home at the age of 74. The others are free on bond.

Burrell Sr., 79, David Mohler, 54, and Roland Mohler, 49, will be tried in Clay County on changes of venue, Burrell Jr.’s trial was moved to Pettis County, and the trial for Jared Mohler, 50, will remain in Lafayette County.

Jones said David Mohler can’t get a job because of the charges against him, doesn’t have any money because of mounting attorney fees, and has been targeted by fliers mailed to his neighbors telling them to beware of the molester in their midst.

The attorney said in the October motion that prosecutors should have thought about how much the case would cost when they rushed to bring the charges.

“The state has acknowledged part of the reluctance to provide discovery ordered by the court is the budget impact on the state,” Jones wrote. “The state chose to bring charges following minimal investigation. Budget challenges cannot be allowed as an excuse to deprive a defendant of his rights to due process and a speedy trial.”

Campbell replied: “The expense is going to be rather extensive.”

Benjamin told the court Burrell Mohler Sr. is a diabetic who is suffering from colon and heart conditions. He is facing 21 counts, including rape, sodomy and use of a child in a sexual performance.

In a motion filed this summer, Benjamin wrote that the state has resisted calling the case one of “repressed memories,” yet three of the witnesses said in depositions that memories claimed in the indictment were not remembered until 2008.

Campell countered that the alleged victims did block or repress many of those memories until 2008, but not all of them, and declined to concede it was a repressed memory case.

Benjamin also cited experts in the science of memory have concluded there is no such thing as recovery of repressed memories. Campell responded that other experts disagree.

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