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story.lead_photo.caption Locke Thompson

Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Pat Joyce should hold the prosecuting attorney's office in contempt — and fine it $50 a day, starting this past Jan. 15, attorney Dave Roland argued in a nine-page motion filed this week.

But Jefferson City lawyer Michael Berry, representing Prosecutor Locke Thompson's office in the case, told the News Tribune on Wednesday: "Nobody is trying to avoid providing Mr. Malin with the documents he seeks.

"I look forward to filing a formal response for the Prosecutor's office and addressing this motion to the Court."

Roland's motion is the latest legal move in an open records case that began four years ago.

In April 2015, Aaron Malin asked for a number of public records from then-Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson — including communications between Richardson's office and the Mustang Drug Task Force.

On Oct. 22, 2025, Malin asked for any Cole County indictments issued between July 1, 2014, and Oct. 22, 2015.

And a third, Oct. 30, 2015, request asked for "any Sunshine Law (or open records) requests received by the Cole County Prosecutor's Office, as well as any responses provided, between January 1, 2015, and the present."

Last January, a three-judge panel of the Missouri court of appeals in Kansas City upheld Joyce's October 2017 ruling that Malin was entitled to those documents, and Richardson had knowingly and purposefully violated the state's Sunshine Law.

She ordered Richardson to search for, and produce, all open records responsive to Malin's requests, and to pay Malin a civil penalty of $12,100 — plus $24,070 in attorney's fees.

But Richardson appealed Joyce's ruling, so those costs climbed to $51,166.55, after Malin had additional attorney's fees because of the appeal case.

Berry said: "As Mr. Malin's motion makes clear, since the decision of the Court of Appeals became final his counsel's fee award has been satisfied by paying every dollar requested, without disputing the hours he requested or the rate of compensation sought."

On Wednesday, Roland, of the Freedom Center of Missouri in Mexico, told the News Tribune: "Cole County paid the civil penalties and the attorney fees the circuit court and the court of appeals ordered against it.

"But they still have not produced the records that the courts ordered them to produce."

So, Roland filed his "motion for civil contempt," detailing the history of the case to date and outlining several phone or email conversations Roland has had with Berry.

Current Prosecutor Locke Thompson — who beat Richardson in last August's primary, then won the general election in November and became Cole County prosecutor on Jan. 1 — hired Berry to handle the Malin case.

Berry said Wednesday: "The records Mr. Malin sought were generated and stored by Mr. Thompson's predecessor, many of them electronically.

"Whether Mr. Malin filed this motion or not, he is going to get what is available and responsive as soon as it can be identified and made ready."

Roland said in his email to the News Tribune, and in court documents, that Berry, on June 8, provided "a limited set of documents that might be responsive to Malin's April 1, 2015, records request, but which did not include the actual communication or correspondence between the Prosecuting Attorney's office and the Mustang task force."

Berry told the News Tribune: "Mr. Malin also acknowledges that representatives of the Prosecutor's office have provided Mr. Malin's counsel (Roland) with many of these documents, and those efforts remain ongoing.

"I was given some as late as Monday and provided them to (Roland) electronically. Others have been identified by the IT people who manage the system serving the Prosecutor's office, and are being prepared for production."

Roland's contempt motion said the prosecutor's office still hasn't complied with Malin's requests, and he asked the court:

To find the prosecutor "in civil contempt for its ongoing disobedience of this court's Oct. 11, 2017, order." Roland said the prosecutor's office could "purge this contempt" by giving Malin the office's "answer (if any) to a Sunshine Law request submitted by Eric Whitehorn," as well as "all correspondence and communications sought in Malin's (original) April 1, 2015, records request."

To prohibit "the prosecutor from charging (Malin) any fees or costs associated with locating or producing the open public records it has been ordered to provide."

To order the prosecutor to pay a $50 per day fine, effective on Jan. 15, 2019 — the date the appeals court issued its ruling upholding Joyce's 2017 decision.

If Joyce approved the fine request, the prosecutor's office would owe an additional $7,400 as of Wednesday — and $8,300 on July 1, when Joyce already had scheduled a status hearing in the case, and Roland is asking for a hearing on his motion.

However, that day is Joyce's "Law Day," and 30 other cases are set to be heard during the same hour as the Malin case — so a hearing on the contempt motion more likely would be set for a different day and time.

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