Lawyer wants lower bail for war veteran accused of stalking members of controversial church

WICHITA, Kan. — A lawyer for a double-amputee war veteran charged with misdemeanors against a controversial Topeka, Kan., church said Friday that he will be seeking lower bail for his client.

Meanwhile, both the lawyer for Army veteran Ryan Newell and a spokeswoman for Westboro Baptist Church say that Newell is the subject of other investigations.

"My goal right now is to get Mr. Newell out of custody," said lawyer Boyd McPherson.

Newell, 26, of Marion, Kan., has remained in the Sedgwick County Jail since Tuesday evening in lieu of $500,000 bail.

"It's obvious that Mr. Newell has a great outpouring of support, some of whom share our client's view of supporting our country," said McPherson, who, along with fellow Wichita lawyer Steve Joseph, is representing Newell.

People nationwide are offering to help pay for Newell's bail, McPherson said.

"He's not interested in publicity," McPherson said. "He appreciates all the support that's being offered."

Westboro and its members have been widely condemned for protesting at soldiers' funerals nationwide. Westboro contends that soldiers are dying because God is punishing the nation for immorality.

Newell faces a trial tentatively set for Dec. 16. On Thursday, Sedgwick County prosecutors charged him with stalking, three counts of criminal use of weapons and one count of false impersonation of a law enforcement officer.

The stalking charge accuses Newell of taking actions targeted at Westboro members and putting them in fear for their safety.

Sedgwick County sheriff's detectives arrested Newell midmorning Tuesday outside Wichita City Hall after a sheriff's detective saw him following a Westboro van with five members to City Hall, officials said. His vehicle was backed into a spot in the City Hall parking lot while Westboro members were inside discussing safety concerns with Wichita police officials, officials have said.

The weapons charges accuse Newell of unlawfully carrying and concealing or possessing with "intent to use" an M4 rifle, a .45-caliber Glock handgun and a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.

Besides the weapons, Newell also had more than 90 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle, sources said.

An M4 rifle is a high-powered weapon used in combat; there are variations of the rifle, according to websites.

Westboro spokeswoman Shirley Phelps-Roper said Friday: "Here is what I expect to happen: This guy is going to be called a hero. He may get a parade." People "will line up to sing his praises, to pay his legal fees and to get him a lawyer. Then he will be permitted to plead to some nothing charges."

Phelps-Roper also said, "We've had communication about a federal investigation" involving Newell. "And I don't think I ought to say any more about that."

FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

The Wichita Eagle has previously reported that agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went to Newell's home and obtained items, including firearms.

McPherson, Newell's lawyer, said, "I'm hearing that there are other investigations that are pending." He declined to elaborate.

McPherson said he is working to make sure that Newell's medical needs are met while he is in jail. McPherson said he thinks Newell has been placed in the jail clinic because of medications associated with his war injuries.

Newell lost his legs in 2008 when an improvised bomb exploded in Afghanistan. Some of his fellow soldiers died in the explosion.

Lawyer wants lower bail for war veteran accused of stalking members of controversial church 12/03/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:26pm]

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