In Kansas, Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell (R) was found not guilty of 21 counts of wire fraud on March 4. O’Donnell could still be retried by prosecutors on the additional five counts—two charges of wire fraud and three charges of money laundering—that the jury could not agree on. As he was leaving the courthouse, O’Donnell said, “I’m very happy with the results. I’ve never broken any laws.”
The charges that the jury could not come to a decision on were related to a pair of $1,000 checks that O’Donnell gave to two friends following an Aspen ski trip. The two friends, Colby Rankin and Jonathan Dennill, told jurors that they were unsure why O’Donnell gave them the checks and then asked for the money back. O’Donnell said that the checks were bonuses for previously unpaid campaign work and that Rankin and Dennill used the checks to repay him for the money that he fronted for the trip.
In May 2018, O’Donnell was indicted by a federal grand jury on 23 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. The indictment alleged that in 2015 and 2016, O’Donnell wrote checks from his campaign account to three of his friends who cashed the checks. Prosecutors had alleged that O’Donnell’s friends did little or no work on his campaign and that some of the money from the cashed checks went into O’Donnell’s personal checking account.
O’Donnell was first elected to the Sedgwick County Commission in 2016, and his seat is up for election again in 2020. Prior to joining the county commission, he served in the Kansas State Senate from 2013 to 2017 and on the Wichita City Council from 2011 to 2013.