When a local nurse was sentenced in Shawnee County District Court, she told the judge that when she became addicted to methamphetamine, she lost everything — her job, her home and all of her relationships.
Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay told the nurse’s story Tuesday when he spoke to members of the Sunrise Optimist Club of North Topeka. As of Tuesday, Kagay, 33, has been district attorney for six weeks. He was elected to a four-year term in November.
“We have a profound methamphetamine issue (in Shawnee County,)” Kagay said. “It’s very addictive, it’s very destructive.”
The nurse had gone to a party, where she tried meth and immediately became addicted, Kagay said. Within six months, she had lost her job as a registered nurse and in 12 months, she had lost her home. She ruined every relationship in her life, Kagay said the woman told the sentencing judge.
“This was someone with a high level of education, a high level of intelligence,” Kagay said.
The nurse was convicted of possession of methamphetamine, a felony, but because she was a first-time offender, she was placed on probation.
The nurse told the judge she was undergoing drug treatment, taking steps to get back on the right track and seeking to return to her nursing career, Kagay said.
Kagay said he is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, local federal law enforcement agencies, the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office and the Topeka Police Department to develop an initiative to crack down on meth traffickers. The district attorney’s office also works with the drug court, a program within the district court.
Meth traffickers travel to Topeka from as far away as Clay Center to buy meth, then sell it, Kagay said. They know the source is here, he said.
“Well, that has to stop,” Kagay said. “That will remain a top priority for my administration, cracking down on those who traffic in meth and prosecuting anyone who would bring that into our community. I have no patience with it. Methamphetamine is a poison that’s infecting our community.”
Meth also spawns other crimes, including home and business burglaries and thefts of property to be fenced to support a drug habit, Kagay said.
Kagay also fielded questions about street gangs, marijuana legalization and sex trafficking within Shawnee County.
Kagay voiced opposition to legalizing marijuana in Kansas. He said he had “rarely, rarely” found a meth addict who didn’t also have a marijuana use habit to take the edge off the meth.
“I’ll prosecute (marijuana statutes) as long as it is illegal,” Kagay said.
He also discussed the county’s sex trafficking problem, noting the confluence of cheap motels to house traffickers and their victims along with highways carrying incoming traffic from the Kansas City area and Wichita.
Sex trafficking is the manipulation of children, young women and sometimes young men into the sex trade, where they are trapped by drug addiction, alcohol and violence to earn money for traffickers. Traffickers sell the victims to customers.
“It’s easy for someone to bring their victims here, then traffic them for a week or two, then move on,” Kagay said. The prosecution of sex traffickers is a complex case to build, he said.
“We’re doing the best we can,” he said.
At least two sex trafficking cases are ongoing in Shawnee County District Court.
Kagay also addressed gang culture, which he said demands that a member own a gun. Some gang members vent their frustrations by making threats online, and some follow up by shooting someone, he said.
“A lot of the gang violence is (individual) insecurity, a lot of it goes back to the meth,” Kagay said.
Street gangs use meth and fight over it, and it is a money-maker for them, he said in an earlier interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal.