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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

Charges dismissed

Thursday, April 12, 2007

CHARLESTON -- The Mississippi County Grand Jury indictment against a former county jail administrator has been dismissed.

Don Chance, formerly the administrator for the Mississippi County Detention Center, was charged with two counts of stealing and five counts of forgery through the grand jury indictment.

A hearing and oral argument on the charges before Stoddard County Judge Joe Z. Satterfield were held March 15, according to Chance's attorney, Jim Robison of Sikeston.

"The judgment of dismissal was filed on March 23," Robison said.

Robison confirmed the charges were dismissed with prejudice which means they can not be refiled.

"As a general rule, Missouri does not require proceedings before a grand jury to be recorded by a court reporter," he said.

There are, however, three exceptions, one of which being that the judge can order at his or her discretion proceedings to be recorded.

The other two exceptions in which proceedings must be recorded by a court recorder with a copy of the transcript going to the defendant are investigations of homicide and if the state uses the testimony of a witness testifying under immunity.

The indictment of Chance was made using testimony by a witness who was granted immunity but a court reporter apparently did not record the proceedings and no transcript of the testimony was provided to the defendant.

"In the absence of a record, the indictment was defective," Robison said.

Robison said the only record he was provided with was grand jury notes from July 25 which show that Stephen Dunning was called in as witness, gave testimony and was then dismissed.

"There were seven counts in the indictment returned by the grand jury," he said.

The first charge alleged that between Feb. 1, 2004, and April 30, 2004, Chance transferred $500 in county funds to one of his employees.

Robison said the employee who received the money was preparing for a wedding and was short some money for a purchase and asked for help from Chance.

"He made a personal loan to him for $500," Robison said.

Robison said Chance's wife brought the money to the office "and that's the money he loaned to him."

"The remaining six counts all relate to a former deputy sheriff named Stephen Dunning," he continued.

These six counts allege Chance stole county money by allowing Dunning to work on Chance's house while on duty.

"Again, we don't think that would ever have been provable," Robison said.

Robison said Dunning was under investigation by the Sheriff's Department and "failed to appear in response to a grand jury subpoena."

A second subpoena for Dunning to appear was then issued on July 25, according to Robison.

Dunning appeared with his attorney on that date "and an immunity agreement was signed by Dunning, his attorney and the prosecuting attorney," Robison said.

In the first paragraph of the final version of the typewritten immunity agreement, which is dated July 25, sections are lined out and replaced with handwritten text so it reads: "the Prosecuting Attorney has agreed to provide Stephen Dunning immunity for actions taken by Mr. Dunning relating to firearms, missing funds, vacation time, falsifying time records, working on the home of Don Chance, vending funds, as it relates to the Mississippi Co. Detention Center. In addition the prosecutor has agreed not to pursue any charges related to any firearms that were once in the possession or control of Mr. Dunning."

Due to 4-3.6 of the Missouri Supreme Court rules, "I can't really say a whole lot," Darren Cann, Mississippi County's prosecuting attorney, said of the ruling. "It was not a judgment on the merits of the case. There was a finding of probable cause by the grand jury. All I can say is charges are allegations. Everyone is presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty."