Rios a possible witness in 26 cases

Sunday, July 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:30 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Former Columbia Police officer and murder suspect Steven Rios is a potential prosecution witness for two cases in which his own attorney is serving as defense counsel.

Rios’ attorney Rusty Antel said he had consulted with both clients about the issue and it was “not a conflict (of interest) at the present time.”

In all, Rios is a potential police witness for 26 pending cases, according to a list provided by the Boone County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. In most of those cases, at least one other Columbia Police officer is listed as a witness on court documents. However, in at least one case — a misdemeanor drug possession charge — Rios is the only witness listed.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane said the chances of Rios ever serving as a police witness again are small.

“Anything’s possible, but it certainly seems unlikely at this point,” Crane said.

Crane said his office was conducting a case-by-case analysis to determine what action to take. He said he is ethically prohibited from discussing future action in the cases.

Rios has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the death of MU student Jesse Valencia. He wrote the probable cause statements in support of arrest warrants in several pending cases under review by Crane’s office, including those of the three Kappa Alpha members charged in connection with firing a cannon in April. Antel represents one of those men; defense attorney David Eblen represents the other two.

Eblen is handling several cases in which Rios was the arresting officer. He said Rios’ involvement in those cases is “something I will sit down with prosecutors and discuss.”

He mentioned several actions prosecutors could take in the cases in question. Eblen said one option would be to ask police for supplemental reports, in which officers would retrace Rios’ police work. Other options include amending the charges or deferring prosecution. In some cases, he said, prosecutors may have no choice but to dismiss the charges.

All of the cases are being handled by assistant prosecutors, who Crane said have been updating him periodically on each case’s status.

Of the 26 cases, seven include felony charges, the most serious of which are armed criminal action, first-degree burglary and unlawful use of a weapon. Six of the cases involve driving while intoxicated, and seven involve drug charges. The details of two of the cases are confidential.

Eblen said the impact of Rios’ involvement in the 26 cases will depend on the facts of each case, including the number of other officers assisting in the investigation. Court documents list eight Columbia Police officers besides Rios as witnesses in the Kappa Alpha cases. The first Kappa Alpha trial is scheduled for July 27. The next trial for which Rios is a potential witness, a driving while intoxicated charge, is scheduled for July 20.

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