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Ruling lets Missouri man who assaulted wife stay anonymous

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | 12:38 a.m. CDT; updated 8:27 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 27, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY —  A state appeals judge is urging legislators to fix a law that allowed a man convicted of assaulting his wife to remain anonymous in some court documents.

The man, identified in an appeals court ruling Tuesday by the initials "M.L.S.," had sought to overturn his convictions for misdemeanor charges of domestic assault, resisting arrest and obstructing a government operation.

M.L.S. argued that identifying him in court records would violate a 2007 law that closes records if they could be used to find or identify victims of sexual or domestic assaults, stalking or rape. The man claimed that naming him would identify his wife — the victim of the domestic assault.

The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, upheld convictions for third-degree domestic assault and resisting arrest but overturned one for resisting government operations. The Kansas City-based appeals court said it would identify the man only by his initials, though it was not certain that the 2007 law required it.

Appeals court Judge Ronald Holliger, who recently was a finalist for a spot on the Missouri Supreme Court, said in a concurring opinion that it is "appalling" the man was allowed shield his identity.

"It is worrisome anytime that in a criminal case the name of the defendant is concealed from the public," Holliger said. "It is particularly so here because the defendant is a well known member of the community and engaged in a profession that does not tolerate such criminal conduct. I strongly urge the legislature to fix this statute."

Even though the court decided to apply the 2007 statute, attempts to purge identifying information about "M.L.S." appear to have been unsuccessful.

Online court records show that Michael Lee Selby, of Columbia, was arraigned Dec. 5, 2006, in Boone County, and convicted May 16, 2007. Selby's address and the address provided for "M.L.S." in court records are the same.

Court records show that Selby was convicted of the same misdemeanors as those listed in the appeal for "M.L.S." Missouri Supreme Court records indicate Selby's law license was suspended in July 2007 following misdemeanor convictions and that he was disbarred in April.

Among the arguments made in the appeal were that the defendant should be have been allowed to serve as a co-counsel in his defense because he was a licensed attorney.

A Columbia public defender who represented "M.L.S." during the appeal did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

The 2007 law that allowed "M.L.S." to be identified only by initials was sponsored in the Senate by Republican attorney general candidate Michael Gibbons, who has mentioned his support for the legislation while campaigning.

"The intent was never to allow the defendant to hide their identity," Gibbons said Tuesday. "We simply wanted to protect victims."

Gibbons said he would support legislation clarifying that defendants cannot shield their identities.

The 2007 law also barred police from requiring sexual assault victims to take polygraph tests before investigations and required the state to pay for rape test kits. It also established a state program allowing domestic violence, rape and stalking victims to keep their addresses confidential by having mail sent to them through the secretary of state's office.

 


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