By Stephen Mayer, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -
Colby Liston and his family have had to face the ordeal of him losing both legs.
But adding to their difficult time is under Kansas law, the accused drunken driver who injured him will face no more than a year in jail because he only faces a misdemeanor charge. And this is the 21-year-old suspect's second DUI charge.
"They failed me. They failed Colby, and I think they failed their community," Matt Liston, Colby Liston's father, told KCTV5.
Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said he wishes he could file felony battery charges, but state law won't allow it because it requires showing that the behavior was reckless. Kansas legislators a decade ago repealed a law that would have allowed battery charges in suspected DUI cases that involve injuries.
Branson said he and other state prosecutors are working to get the Kansas Legislature to change the law.
That's small comfort to Liston, his family and supporters especially since Julian Kuszmaul faces a maximum of a year in jail if convicted of second DUI offense, unlawful possession for a controlled substance and following another vehicle too closely.
Rebecca Simon, who has helped gather the support of nearly 5,000 for a change in state law, said clearly the suspect hasn't learned anything from his first offense since he is accused of driving drunk and high again.
"How is that not reckless," she said. "He's not learning anything if he gets off on a misdemeanor. . . . High school and college students are going to sit there and say, 'I can drive drunk. As long as I don't kill anybody, I'm good.'"
Colby Liston was standing behind a parked car when Kuszmaul allegedly plowed into him last August.
Liston now has prosthetic legs. He is learning to walk again and accomplish tasks that were once so easy. While he's recovering, his supporters and family say a dysfunctional legal system must be changed.
They say that the accused driver had a blood alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit in Kansas. They also say that Kuszmaul fled the scene. Because of this, they said they do not see how Branson cannot see that this was reckless behavior -- rather than simply driving drunk -- and it should raise to the level of a felony charge.
The Liston family and their supporters have harsh words for Branson.
"Justice is not being served," according to the Team Liston Facebook page. "At the end of the day, DA Branson is a politician, and he won't get re-elected if he brings felony charges against the son of a wealthy Lawrence business owner."
Branson emphatically denies that. He says asking the Supreme Court to intervene would be unsuccessful.
"My job as district attorney is to analyze the cases we review in light of the law of this state as it exists. Supreme Court cases are not presented by one side or another. They are pronouncements by our highest court on how the law of this state must be applied," Branson said.
An independent legal expert told KCTV5 that Branson is basically right.
Click here to see the Liston family's Facebook page.
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