Phone calls leading to mistaken release revealed

Posted at 9:24 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 23:21:23-04

41 Action News obtained emails, phone calls and video from the Jackson County Department of Corrections, where employees in the records department mistakenly released an accused murderer last month.

Documents show the prosecutor’s office dismissed Malcolm Johnson’s charges and then minutes later refiled them. All of the information showed up in the jail’s computer systems, but the employees in the records department didn’t pay close enough attention.

More than 24 hours later, Johnson was mistakenly released.

On Feb. 16, a Raytown detective delivered the new arrest warrant to the jail around 5 p.m. By 10 p.m. on Feb. 17, Johnson was out.

Department of Corrections Director Joe Piccinini takes full responsibility for the mistake.

“We received that warrant in plenty of time, not to release that suspect from the jail,” he said. “The investigation revealed because there was a lack of due diligence on the folks in our records department, they neglected to see that charges had been reinstated."

It wasn’t until March 3, 15 days later, when authorities realized the mistake.

“I definitely want to apologize to the citizens of Jackson County and also to the victim's family for this mistaken release,” Piccinini added.

In phone calls between Johnson and his family, they appear to have kept tabs on his case, checking online and figuring out he may be released.

"Somebody just said that means they aren’t refiled it yet. That means I’m a free man from this case right now,” Johnson said in a phone call to his family.

Since Johnson was accidently released, multiple employees were disciplined and one left the job.

Piccinini said policies have changed in the record department, too.

“No violent suspects will be released without the manager of the records unit approving it,” he said.

There is a warrant out for Johnson’s arrest.

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said it continues to work with law enforcement and will remain in close contact with the family of the murder victim.


Lexi Sutter can be reached at

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