For roughly 18 months, a Tecumseh man charged with sexually assaulting a minor was driving a local school bus. Investigators say his arrest was delayed by a tardy court filing.
In August 2020, Pottawatomie County prosecutors charged Timothy Cansler, 60, with sexually assaulting a minor. A nearly year-and-a-half-long delay in filing a court document resulted in the suspect continuing his job, driving a bus for Tecumseh Public Schools.
A probable cause affidavit, a document which is necessary to request an arrest warrant, was not filed until Feb. 8, 2022—nearly 18 months after prosecutors filed two counts child sexual abuse against the suspect, Timothy Cansler.
An arrest warrant was issued the day after the affidavit was filed with the court clerk’s office, according to online court records. Cansler turned himself into jail in March and notified the school district, which promptly put Cansler on leave from driving a school bus.
“As soon as officials with Tecumseh Public Schools were made aware of the allegations about the employee, he was placed on administrative leave until legal proceedings have concluded,” said Robert Kinsey, Tecumseh Schools Superintendent.
Kinsey said the only notification he received regarding the charges against Cansler was from the suspect himself.
Cansler told News 9 on Monday, “I am not guilty.”
Investigators behind the case said the late arrest created an unnecessary risk for students.
“Even if he wasn’t a bus driver, why did it take so long? Why did it take so long for him to go through court and for him to be arrested?” said Lt. Dakota Black of the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office. “We have a suspect in this case walking around free and we don’t know if someone has been victimized by this person.”
Black prepared the probable cause affidavit, which was notarized on July 27, 2020. It was not included in the initial charging document, which prosecutors filed with the court clerk Aug. 13, 2020.
She said she did not know that Cansler was a Tecumseh school bus driver during her investigation in 2020. Still, she said notifying the school district of the allegations would have been improper.
“Ethically, you would want to make the notification to the school because you want the children to be safe especially if he’s working with children,” Black said. “But you can’t go around and violate people’s rights because he’s not guilty of anything until a judge says so.”
Allan Grubb, district attorney for Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties, said the nearly 18-month delay in filing the probable cause affidavit was a mistake made along the filing process “chain.”
Grubb told News 9 the paperwork could have been lost by employees of his office, the court clerk’s office, or the judge because of confusion caused by COVID-19 protocols.
“At the time of this filing, we were still during COVID protocols,” Grubb said. “Different offices were shutting down every month. They still had COVID security boxes that we had to put stuff in.
The probable cause affidavit “could have been lost in any of those boxes that we were using to transfer paperwork. It was probably, 100% COVID-issue based on how things were working at that time,” Grubb said.
The court clerk’s office, however, had reopened from a COVID closure three months before prosecutors charged Cansler.
“As of June 15, 2020, our office was fully open and operating to the public,” Court Clerk Valerie Ueltzen said in a statement to News 9.
“Any document that is filed with my office is file-stamped on the day that it is received. Any lapse of time between the filing of the information and the filing of the affidavit and issuance of the warrant would be a question for the District Attorney. It is his responsibility to make sure his cases are properly prosecuted.”