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Kansas City man who shot Ralph Yarl wants case sealed from the public

 Andrew D. Lester, the 84-year-old Kansas City man facing charges for shooting Ralph Yarl, pleaded not guilty at the Clay County Courthouse on April 19, 2023.
Andrew D. Lester, the 84-year-old Kansas City man facing charges for shooting Ralph Yarl, pleaded not guilty at the Clay County Courthouse on April 19, 2023.

The 84-year-old Kansas City man who shot a Black teen who accidently rang his doorbell asked a judge Monday to keep his case sealed.

Andrew D. Lester has already received threats, been called a racist and a murderer and had to move three times, said Steven Salmon, his attorney. Lester didn't come to court — his attorney said he had heart bypass surgery, has lost 40 pounds since the shooting and is so sick he couldn't appear.

Lester first appeared in court on April 19 and pleaded not guilty to two felony charges — first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

Lester has been the subject of a “firestorm of inaccurate information,” Salmon said, offering several inch-thick piles of national and international media coverage to Clay County Judge Louis Angles. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian and Viola Davis have all posted about the case on social media, he said. Even President Joe Biden has commented on the case, Salmon said.

Salmon argued continuing media coverage will bias a jury against Lester, making it impossible for him to get a fair trial.

News Andrew Lester, white Kansas City man who shot Ralph Yarl, pleads not guilty to felony charges Peggy Lowe

Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson opposed the seal, saying any trial should be played out in public.

“Justice should not only be done, but be shown to be done,” he said.

Salmon said he doesn’t believe Lester, who is white, shot Yarl because of his race. That’s despite the fact Thompson earlier said there “was a racial component to the case” and Yarl’s attorneys have asked for a federal hate crime investigation.

Lester told Kansas City Police after the shooting that when he looked out his front door the night of April 13 to see Yarl standing there, he saw a six-foot Black man and that he was scared, according to the probable cause statement. Salmon told reporters that that doesn’t mean Lester’s comment was racially-motivated.

“If the individual had been of another ethnic type, if he'd been somebody else, I mean if he's identifying somebody and that person was white, would he not say they were white?” Salmon said. “He was asked … who this individual was and he said the individual was Black. I don't think there's anything beyond that that's been put out there.”

Angles didn’t make a decision Monday. He said he will issue one before the next hearing, scheduled for June 1.

Copyright 2023 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Peggy Lowe joined Harvest Public Media in 2011, returning to the Midwest after 22 years as a journalist in Denver and Southern California. Most recently she was at The Orange County Register, where she was a multimedia producer and writer. In Denver she worked for The Associated Press, The Denver Post and the late, great Rocky Mountain News. She was on the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of Columbine. Peggy was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan in 2008-09. She is from O'Neill, the Irish Capital of Nebraska, and now lives in Kansas City. Based at KCUR, Peggy is the analyst for The Harvest Network and often reports for Harvest Public Media.