Bourbon County resident Mike Braim observes political corruption in his hometown and works hard to expose it. For the past year and a half, Mike has been attending county commission meetings, speaking out vehemently in favor of Prosecutor Jacqie Spradling’s removal: https://kansasreflector.com/2021/06/18/kansas-prosecutor-mired-in-ethical-misconduct-quits-to-avoid-bourbon-county-backlash/.
Read more in this interview with LPKS Communications Director, Allison Ross.
AR: Thanks for being willing to talk to us. I’ve done a little research on what you’ve been up to, but there’s a lot to unpack here. Can you summarize the prosecutor controversy?
MB: Jacqie Spradling is a terrible person. She’s power-hungry and she preys on people in a situation that they can’t help. I’ve heard her described as “win at all costs,” whether it’s right or wrong, just or unjust. Most prosecutors start at criminal defense. Not her; she’s been a career prosecutor. At first glance, her resume is quite impressive. She’s worked a lot of places. I’m not aware of any county where she’s worked that she’s left on good terms – left suddenly without explanation, or something. She never finished up a term and then moved on.
Prosecutor misconduct is a real problem in this country. There are the Dana Chandler and Jacob Ewing cases – they deserved a fair trial. She manufactures evidence and falsely convicts – or at least, unfairly convicts – these people. This is a pattern that has gone on with her; it’s happened over and over in her career.
Somehow, she ended up here in Bourbon Co. In 2017 our county attorney Justin Meeks decided to step down. Because he was a Republican, the Republican Committee got to appoint a new prosecutor, and there’s a lot of controversy about how it happened. Jacqie Spradling came in at noon on the day they voted and threw her hat in the ring [as a candidate]. She deceived the Republican Committee by not letting them know she was in all this trouble. They did some background checks through Google, but there were only a few hours to do it, so they weren’t able to find anything.
As time went on and she got in more trouble with [disciplinary committees], people really didn’t like her. She’s really unfair. I’m not aware of misconduct allegations here, but maybe just because they haven’t been filed yet. She’s postdated her resignation for the end of the month. I’m not exactly sure how much influence I had in that, but I did push for her removal.
AR: Let’s get some history of you in Kansas – did you grow up here?
MB: No, I’m from Chicago. I was tired of being in Chicago, so I closed my eyes, pointed at the map, and moved to Kansas in 2007. Fell in love with southeast KS and bought a house in Fort Scott. I live in a rural community, a farming community; the things we do for recreation are usually outdoors. Bourbon Co is one of the most corrupt places I’ve ever lived in, and that’s coming from a guy who’s from Chicago.
I’m just a regular person, not a politician or lawyer. I’m a husband and dad and I’m not used to this. It’s hard to keep it all straight at times. My local paper [featured me] three times, then every major paper in KS at least once. I’m hoping the more awareness I can bring to it, it’ll get people thinking.
AR: What’s it like to go to a county commission meeting?
MB: I’ve been to two commission meetings and let loose with both barrels. I’m not afraid of Jacqie Spradling. I asked her to resign. They weren’t on board. I wanted people to know this was going on, but had to confirm with different sources first. So I went down to the courthouse, filed a KORA for resignation and made it public that she would resign. People rejoiced, let me tell you. This is the day she turned in her resignation – I had just left the county clerk’s office. I was trying to put together a story to release to the public, so I called her office for comment. Her assistant, Tiana McElroy, resigned around the same time. I thought one of them would have something to say, but it was radio silence. An hour later, they called back to tell me she wasn’t there and no one wanted to comment – but they did file more charges against me.
Yesterday at the [July 1st Bourbon Co Republican Central Committee] meeting, I went right up to McElroy and asked, “Knowing what we know now against Spradling, is it relevant to review everything she has done and every case she has filed? How do you feel about that?” and McElroy agreed with me. She said that it can’t happen right away, but yes, that is something she plans to get to eventually. I’m going to hold her to that.
The Supreme Court in this whole misconduct [affair] has been painfully slow – like years and years in the making. Spradling had the hearings in front of the panel in Dec 2020. [The steps are] public censure, suspension of her license, then disbarment. The panel finally came to the conclusion that disbarment would be best, but the Supreme Court still has to make a decision on it.
She’s an elected official – she’s a bully. I don’t understand why they haven’t suspended her license while the Supreme Court makes up their mind. Her professional peers are trying to put as much distance from her as they can right now.
AR: Ok, so it sounds like there have been issues for a long time, but when did you get involved personally?
MB: When I started this stuff, a year or two ago, it was more just bringing social media awareness to [the corruption]. We have a couple Facebook groups here in Bourbon. People would agree with me and I’d make informational posts sharing articles, etc. A few people would like and comment. But when I really started going after it hard, people came out of the woodwork. They wouldn’t comment publicly, but they private-messaged me. I can’t believe how many people have said “We really appreciate what you’re doing,” or “Thank you for having the courage to stand up.”
I don’t know if people didn’t know or if they just didn’t care, but as I brought awareness, the public outreach has really blown my mind. People really started relating these misconduct allegations to what they’re seeing here. We can’t have that. We have enough problems in Bourbon County without that.
AR: In the Reflector article, you’re quoted as saying you and your neighbors “don’t feel safe” – can you expound on that? Is it just with Spradling’s office, or in general?
MB: Particularly with her. She charges ridiculously high and tries to get you to plead down, instead of charging you appropriately. If you get caught jaywalking, she’ll charge you with murder. Most end up pleading out to a lesser charge, like a misdemeanor.
There’s just so many cases [like this]. I know one guy in particular from my work who was a landlord – I’m not sure of the specifics, but there was an eviction and he ended up getting charged with burglary. That’s insane to me – that’s life-changing stuff. They forced him into a plea bargain.
A prosecutor has a duty, an obligation to do what benefits the community most. Because of that, they are given an incredible amount of discretion. They are some of the most powerful players within the justice system, and they’re immune; there’s little to no consequence if they do it badly.
AR: You’ve given some examples of things happening in your community; how has her corruption affected you personally?
MB: They keep filing more charges against me. It’s not her, it’s people who work directly underneath her. Since I moved here, I’ve had a target on my back from this woman.
There was an incident where I got pulled over by the county sheriff. (He and Spradling are pretty tight. Prosecutor misconduct and police misconduct go hand-in-hand; they feed off each other.) I was going 55 in a 45. I get pulled over, hand the guy my license & registration, and he comes back saying it shows I don’t have a license – and that I never had a KS license. He says, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll write you a ticket but I won’t take you to jail. I’ll cut you a break.” I went to court and they try to give me this nonsense about how it was a big mistake – that I should just pay the $150 court fee and it would get dismissed. I’ve seen people take similar deals. So I leaned closer to the mic and said “no, why the hell would I pay you for your mistake?”
Little things like that add up. My wife Katryna has been so supportive of me – but it takes up so much time, and it’s stressful. I’m just a regular guy. I wish someone else had done this and I could have just been reading about it in the news instead, but here we are.
Since this whole thing has started, I’ve been expecting retaliation and have been documenting extremely carefully. I don’t think the cramp in my hand will ever go away.
AR: What would you say to other liberty-minded individuals who might be frustrated with what they see going on in their hometown politics?
MB: To summarize, this is what I told the commission: I live in Bourbon Co. and raise a family here, and I’m not going anywhere. My wife and I are going to do what we can to make it a great place to live. Speaking out against public officials is a fundamental right. People don’t realize how much power they have. If you really want change, you can make it happen. These commissioners and governors and other politicians, they work for us and they need to realize that.
AR: I also want to ask you about the idea of volunteerism in your community.
MB: Yeah, we’re not a very big county and we’re a poor county – we have a lot of issues here. Bourbon County won’t fix the parks, so we just go do it. I went and got the lumber, supplied the material, built handicapped access for double amputees. There’s a blind woman who lives near here with a seeing eye dog, so we supplied the material and labor to build her a fence. We donate toys to the church. We do what we can. It’s time people take responsibility, and I think we’re getting there.
AR: What’s next for you?
MB: Well, I’ve been following James Brunn in Linn County, who was caught on surveillance camera [speaking disparagingly about] his constituents. Man that guy is awful. Last night I walked up and said to him, “So, just curious what made you want to come to Bourbon County, if you thought there was something special about us or if we’re just ‘[redacted]’ like your people over in Linn?” I threw his own words right back at him. We need to remind him that people aren’t going to put up with that, and they know how to file for a recall vote.
Drug recidivism is a big problem here, so I’m starting to get involved with that. We just built a big jail here and it is already completely full. I’m also really passionate about Child Protective Services, but that will be bigger – that’s state and federal. Right now I’ve only been fighting at the local level. There’s things people need to be aware of [here], like if you’re a felon and you shouldn’t be, things like that. I’m not an attorney, but I know some things and can try to help.
Contact Mike directly: Braimmichael@gmail.com
Questions or comments: email@example.com
NB: County Commission meetings are streamed live, and available to watch at the Bourbon County YouTube channel.
Stay tuned for updates as LPKS follows Mike’s local involvement!