The release of the 2011 annual Clery Crime Report revealed a decrease of reported incidents of campus crimes prior to 2012. The report showed a decrease in almost all the categories. University Police Chief Jon Kelley said the only category that stayed the same as in 2010 was forcible sex offense in which two crimes were reported for 2011. “I would have to say that is a positive report,” Kelley said. Dr. Judy Grimes, interim vice president of Student Affairs, said the numbers speak for themselves. She said compared to other universities throughout the state, Missouri Western has always been regarded as a very safe campus. “You need to look at what we are doing to address the issues,” Grimes said. “We have all new hall directors. They have hired awesome resident assistants and they seem extraordinarily well-prepared.” The numbers are better than previous years, but in Grimes opinion, no crimes is what we strive for. She wasn’t surprised to see the two forcible sex offenses from last year and is never happy when she sees any incident. “I’m never satisfied,” Grimes said. “I think we continue to look at ways to prevent things from happening.” The expected categories, which appear to be reported, are within the residence halls. Burglary went down in the halls from 15 in 2010 to seven in 2011. Mark Stier, director of Residential Life, believes the numbers are an improvement from the last report. He said his staff is now more approachable to help students with a reported crime. “I think in the past students didn’t always feel comfortable coming to Res Life or campus police. They felt it wasn’t going to help them,” Stier said. “I think that has completely changed in the last year.” Kelley said larceny and theft are the two crimes most reported on campus, and he thinks that any time there is a reported sex offense or burglary, it is a concern. “I think theft is most often a crime of opportunity,” Kelley said. “Most often than not we find that the property that was stolen was unattended and unsecured.” He said the 2011 calendar showed 68 theft reports that were not required for the Clery Report, and to date for the 2012 calendar, there has been 42 theft reports so far. Drug law violations have also lowered from 19 in 2010 to 16 in 2011, and liquor law violations lowered from 28 in 2010 to nine in 2011. Since the 2011 report has been released, Kelley believes the report is good news as the numbers are lowering; however, he would like the numbers to decrease even more. “I would like to see no crimes, but I do not think that is very realistic.”
[caption id="attachment_12383" align="alignleft" width="200"] Gary Witt, the newest member of the Western District Judges. Witt also served in the Missouri House of Representatives.[/caption] The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District will sit at Missouri Western on Wednesday, Oct. 10, to hear four cases including personal injury, child pornography and murder. The three-judge panel will begin to hear oral arguments in four cases beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Kemper recital Hall inside the Leah Spratt building. The judges are Thomas Newton, a trial judge from Jackson County, Joseph Ellis, who practiced law in Macon and Gary Witt, the newest member of the Western District Judges. Witt also served in the Missouri House of Representatives. Chief Justice of the Western District James Welsh explained in a recent press release that “the cases are appeals from previously held trials in area circuit courts.” An appeal is “where judges listen to attorneys argue whether the trials had any errors that should cause them to be retried, or the trial courts judgment reversed.” Students will have the opportunity to hear explanations of court proceedings during the judges break time. The court has devoted resources to educating the public with two videos available on line at Missouri Court of Appeals Western District. (www.courts.mo.gov) The first video is "Know All About Missouri Courts" and is designed for elementary school-level students. The second video is simply called "Missouri Courts" and is best suited for high schools. Both of these videos feature judges who explain Missouri’s court system and method of selecting judges The appellate court has its own courthouse in Kansas City that is open to the public. It is the state’s only courthouse exclusively for hearing arguments on appeal. This practice of bringing the courts to towns as small as Macon and Trenton has been a practice for quite some time. This is the 15th time it has sat at Western. “The court goes into the district to make our judicial system real to the average people,” associate professor of criminal justice, legal and social work Suzanne Kissock said. “It says to the people, we are resolving conflicts.” The Western District serves the largest number of counties in Missouri and is the largest intermediate appellate court. They hear literally thousands of cases. “You appeal your case on the state level by right of the individual,” legal studies professor Joanne Katz said. “If you appeal to higher court, the court decides if they will hear the case or not.” Katz explains you have to preserve error by objecting in court. Appeals are created from the way the judge handles the objection. If the judge rules incorrectly on an error and it may change the course of the trial, it can be raised again in an appeal. Attorneys typically argue these types of cases. The parties can be present but usually are not. Kissock also points out that sometimes the attorneys representing an appeal do not argue orally. “The judges make their decision on the written briefs prepared by the attorney" Kissock said. "The judges do not want to challenge precedents. That is why each judge has two law clerks. “I hope this experience will dispel the myths about the law and make it real for students. I don’t want students to feel disenfranchised by the legal system."
Missouri Western Aramark employee Larry Gawatz was charged with first-degree statutory sodomy of an adolescent child. Gawatz's arraignment occurred Friday, March 30. According to the St. Joseph News Press article, Gawatz, who works in Western's dining services at the food court, allegedly inappropriately touched the child's genitals and exposed himself to the young victim. The article further stated that he allegedly sodomized the victim between early October 2009 and late February 2012. According to st.joechannel.com, the victim was under the age of 7. Assistant Food Services Director Kathy Dewalt refused to comment, stating that she had been authorized to speak only to authorities. Dewalt did confirm that she hired Gawatz and that his case is still under investigation. Aramark Director of Communications Karen Cutler also refused on comment on Aramark hiring policies and procedures. Student and frequent food court diner Adrian Cossyleom said that Gawatz was very friendly and was very dissappointed to hear about Gawatz's arrest. "I know Larry," Cossyleom said. "I used to talk to him all the time. I would go up to him and have a little chat while checking out. He was friendly all the time." Student athlete Charlonda Bozeman, who also frequents the food court often, said that Gawatz was very polite and generally a cheerful guy. "He was thoughtful and showed he cared about everybody," Bozeman said. "He was very polite and always had a smile on his face." For more information regarding Gawatz's case, visit http://stjoechannel.com/fulltext/?nxd_id=265912 More information will be covered regarding this case upon the court's decisions after the arraignment.
After a two-game suspension, Ashleigh Curry and Charlonda Bozeman were back on the court to contribute to a Western win Monday night. On January 21 at 10:28 p.m., Western basketball player Ashleigh Curry, was arrested for a misdemeanor of supplying alcohol to a minor. The Western guard had apparently rented out Callison Hall for a back-to-school party, which had been advertised on and off campus via flyers. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="176" caption="Ashleigh Curry, Western Women's Basketball guard"][/caption] In an earlier article written by the St. Joseph News-Press, reader comments alleged that Curry had given alcohol to minors. Other comments suggested that she was a victim of poor circumstances, that minors drank prior to walking into the Callison Hall. Amid these comments were those who were calling for her removal from the women’s basketball team. Western Athletic Director Kurt McGuffin said that since Curry hasn’t appeared in court yet and that the charge is a misdemeanor, McGuffin wanted to be fair and consistent with the athletic department’s disciplinary actions. He also said that in situations like these, expulsion form the team is always considered. “I think any time one of our student athletes makes a wrong decision we’re going to consider that part of it,” McGuffin said. Curry has previous encounters with the law. In March of 2008, Curry was cited for a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. Ten days later she was cited for identity theft. McGuffin said that when deciding disciplinary action, these past citations were considered. With these actions, McGuffin aims for consistency and follows a three-strike policy, but feels that Curry has not struck out. “We had to make it known that we weren’t going to put up with that kind of infraction and bad decision,” McGuffin said. As well as being suspended, Head Coach Lynn Plett and McGuffin have applied other in-house disciplinary actions. Neither Plett nor McGuffin said they could go into detail on these actions and prefer to keep it within the team so they can protect the privacy of Curry. Last semester, Curry had some eligibility issues with the NCAA concerning her short time with Livin’ the Dream which was believed to had compromised her amateur status. Despite the time that Plett and McGuffin spent working out these issues, neither of them regrets their decision to fight for her play-time for Western. “[She’s] a very viable individual, I think, and she’s working very hard in her degree,” Plett said. Curry declined to comment since the situation is not over.
Missouri Western hasn’t been hit by a recent rash of car thefts, but the theft of catalytic converters is right on its doorstep. Last week, the St. Joseph Police Department received 15 reports concerning the theft of catalytic converters. Capt. Kevin Castle said that the thefts are mostly targeted toward GM and Pontiac vehicles. “Usually they’re hitting multiple cars in one lot,” Castle said. “Like high school lots, Heartland’s lots. Lots with large numbers of cars on them.” A release sent out by Missouri Western Public Relations stated that both Heartland Health and American Family have reported thefts of catalytic converters on their campuses. Kim Penland, operations services tech for American Family, said she realized that her converter was missing when she left for work one afternoon. “When I turned the car on it was very noticeable,” Penland said. Penland said that a woman two rows in front of her had her converter stolen also. “It’s very aggravating, and no one likes a thief,” Penland said. “It’s upsetting, and it’s expensive. I feel sorry for the girl in front of me because hers was going to be higher.” Penland said that the cost to replace the converter on her 2005 Chevy van was roughly $100. Ken Lehna, assistant service manager at Randy Reed, said that these parts sometimes cost $300 to $900, including labor. A catalytic converter filters harmful carbons out of a vehicle’s exhaust to prevent pollution. Since it ties directly into the exhaust system, cutting the converter out disconnects the engine exhaust system from the muffler, causing a louder exhaust. “It’s been happening when I was working in Kansas City about a year-year and a half ago,” Lehna said, “There’s just money to be made.” This isn’t the first time SJPD has seen an increase in these types of crimes. “It’s not uncommon to see these,” Castle said. “You’ll see little spikes in them, especially when you see increases in prices go up.” As far as prevention, there is no way to secure a car’s converter, especially since most of these crimes are committed with saws. Castle encouraged people to take notice of anyone tampering with a vehicle in a parking lot. He said that people have reported seeing others tampering with vehicles after the victim reported the theft. “Try and park your car in a place where there will be a high pedestrian count,” Castle said. “It doesn’t take them a long time, it can be done in under a minute, but it’s going to make some noise and someone has to be laying under your car to do it.”