Judge explains his acquittal of Nichols lawyer

Friday, November 23, 2001

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The evidence against former J.C. Nichols Co. attorney Charles Schleicher in a federal racketeering and fraud case was either nonexistent or too week to support a conviction, according to the judge who acquitted Schleicher.

U.S. District Judge Ortie Smith, however, said his decision to end the Kansas City man's trial should not be viewed as a vindication for two former executives who pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Smith issued a 13-page order Wednesday explaining his reasons for ending Schleicher's trial last week after prosecutors had presented their evidence, but before Schleicher's attorneys had delivered their case.

"We're pleased not only with the result but that the judge agreed with us that the law and the facts were on our side," said Schleicher's attorney, Jim Wyrsch.

Former J.C. Nichols Chairman and Chief Executive Lynn L. McCarthy, of Leawood, Kan., and former J.C. Nichols Chief Financial Officer Walter C. Janes, of Prairie Village, Kan., each pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of racketeering conspiracy.

McCarthy, Janes and Schleicher were accused of plundering the company's coffers over a seven-year period. They were fired in May 1995 following a vote of the board of directors of J.C. Nichols, which owned, developed and managed commercial, residential and industrial real estate in Missouri, Kansas and other states.

In a footnote to his order, Smith said the evidence against Schleicher was different than the evidence against McCarthy and Janes, and "Schleicher's acquittal has no bearing on McCarthy's and Janes' guilty pleas."

Among other things, Smith found that:

Schleicher did not participate in the operation or management of the Nichols Co. -- a requirement for conviction under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The evidence was insufficient to support a finding that there was a pattern of racketeering, another re-quirement for conviction under the act.

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