Clay County judge grants motion to seal criminal case of Andrew Lester

Andrew Lester appeared in person for an arraignment hearing at the Clay County Courthouse in...
Andrew Lester appeared in person for an arraignment hearing at the Clay County Courthouse in front of Judge Louis Angles, entering his plea of not guilty on April 19, 2023.(Pool camera)
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 9:13 AM CDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 10:02 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The criminal case of Andrew Lester, charged in the shooting of Ralph Yarl, has been sealed to the public.

Clay County Judge Louis Angles granted the motion filed by Lester’s attorney, who had argued the 84-year-old man has been harassed and threatened. Only the prosecutors and defense have access to the items of discovery in the case.

Lester has pleaded not guilty to armed criminal action and first-degree assault charges and remains free on a $200,000 bond. He is accused of shooting Ralph Yarl on April 13 after the 16-year-old confused Lester’s north Kansas City address with a home about a block away where he was supposed to pick up his younger brothers.

Yarl was shot in the head and arm, and he was released from the hospital after being admitted for three days.

In a court filing, Prosecutor Zachary Thompson stated that if Lester’s records are sealed, the public has a right to know why. Thompson didn’t oppose Lester’s request but said there has to be a strong legal precedent established in favor of the public’s right to access.

In Tuesday’s court order, the judge stated widespread media coverage, interviews with Lester’s ex-wife (from whom he was divorced more than 50 years ago) that alleged he abused her, an interview with a grandson about racist tendencies have been put in the public domain have eroded Lester’s ability to a future fair and impartial trial.

Angles wrote that Lester has had to relocate three times, his house has been defaced and vandalized, and his disabled wife has had to be relocated from a nursing home in the Kansas City metro area to one outside the area because of publicity against Lester.

He further wrote someone published Lester’s cell phone for the public to see, and he has received several messages laced with threats and harassment.

To read the full order, see the document below:

Thompson released the following statement:

“Our office is dedicated to following the law and accepts the ruling of the Court. We can assure the public that our office will continue to be as transparent as legally permitted throughout this process. Our focus remains squarely on achieving justice in this case.”

The next hearing for Lester has been scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Yarl made his first public appearance Monday at the 36th annual Memorial Day Run to support the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City.