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Rowden's lawyer: Jury erred

The attorney for School Board member Diane Rowden has asked that her charges of violating the state's open-meetings law be dismissed because of an alleged error in the indictment filing.

Attorney Ric Howard said Wednesday that the grand jury's indictment should have been filed in county court, not circuit court, because the charge is a misdemeanor.

"The document that charges her with the crime is invalid," he contended.

Howard made the motion for dismissal at Rowden's arraignment before County Judge Peyton Hyslop, who didn't rule on the motion Wednesday. Rowden had been scheduled to enter a plea against the 13 criminal counts and two non-criminal infractions of breaking the state's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

"I've never seen a grand jury return an indictment to the wrong court," Howard said. "But it has happened here."

But Assistant State Attorney Jim McCune argued the indictment was properly filed according to the state's criminal procedures.

"The law was followed," McCune said. "This is an attempt to get a special ruling for this one case."

The rules states when "a grand jury returns an indictment for an offense not triable in the circuit court, the circuit judge shall either issue a summons returnable in the county court, or shall bail the accused for trial in the county court, and the judge at his direction, the clerk of the circuit court shall certify the indictment and file same in records of the county court."

Hyslop said he will rule at 9:30 a.m. Friday on Howard's motion. Howard said if Hyslop dismisses Rowden's case, the state will have to proceed with charges against Rowden all over again. Howard said he doesn't know what action he will take next if the case isn't dismissed.

In August, the grand jury indicted the board members on charges of breaking the state's Sunshine Law for discussing school business in private. On Oct. 23, four of the five board members are scheduled for their pretrials. Board members Susan Cooper, Paul Clemons, Nancy Gordon and Leland McKeown have pleaded not guilty to their respective charges.