Lawmaker, Hotel Dispute Assault Report

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Topeka hotel is raising questions about a Haysville legislator's claim that he was beaten and robbed on the hotel's property Tuesday night.

Rep. Joe Edwards, R-Haysville, said someone hit him on the back of the head as he entered his room at the Ramada Convention Center Downtown Topeka about 9 p.m. Tuesday. He claims he lost consciousness about 1:30 a.m. and notified hotel security.

However, the hotel's director of operations says there's no video evidence of the incident Edwards reported. Edwards alleges the hotel, which is the session home of many legislators, does not want word of crime on its property to get out because it would jeopardize a lucrative contract the hotel has with the state.

Brett Oetting provided surveillance video he said shows Edwards' room at the hotel to KAKE's Topeka sister station, WIBW. In the video, a car parks in front of Edwards' room and one person gets out of the car and enters the room. Oetting said this happened just before 7 p.m. Tuesday and that the surveillance camera captured no other activity until a security guard walked past Edwards' room after the legislator reported the attack.

According to the hotel's incident report, Edwards told a security guard that he was hit in the back of the head just as he unlocked the door to his hotel room. He said he was then pushed into the room. Edwards told the security guard the attacker did not take anything from him, according to the report.

However, Edwards told the Topeka Police Department Wednesday that the person who attacked him took cash.

"He said he was struck by an unknown individual and that individual stole $260 of U.S. currency from him," said Topeka Police Capt. Brian Desch.

According to the hotel incident report, when the security worker asked Edwards if he wanted to file a police report, he said, "What good would that do? Besides, I'm a legislator and don't need that." In the report, the security guard also claims to have asked Edwards if he wanted to be checked out by the doctor. Edwards, according to the report, responded with, "I am a legislator and don't need that kind of publicity."

Edwards spent Wednesday night in a Topeka hospital for observation after being diagnosed with a concussion. He is now recovering at his Haysville home.

Edwards declined to talk on-camera with KAKE News, saying House leaders have advised him not to speak publicly about the incident for now. However, he never asked the security guard not to report the incident to police. Edwards said the security employee told him the hotel would conduct its own investigation and then decide whether to contact police.

The Topeka Police Department is now leading the investigation. Capt. Desch said the incident is being investigated as an aggravated robbery with the use of criminal restraint.

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