Case dismissed for Hannibal attorney accused of tampering with victim when witness fails to show for bench trial

Tyler White

Hannibal attorney Tyler White walks to take a seat during a motion hearing at the Marion County Courthouse on July 31, 2023. | File photo by David Adam

HANNIBAL, Mo. — A bench trial scheduled on Thursday for Hannibal attorney Tyler White — accused of attempting to tamper with a victim in a felony prosecution — was canceled and the case was dismissed.

White and his attorney Mark Williams appeared in Marion County Circuit Court for the trial before Associate Judge Kristen Burks from the 41st Judicial Circuit Court.  Prosecuting the case was Special Prosecutor Alex Ellison of Bowling Green, Mo.

Williams said Kaylee O’Toole, the prosecution’s main witness, didn’t show for the bench trial.

“We were supposed to start at 9 a.m., and the judge was getting a little impatient,” Williams said. “Alex asked for a little time. He and a couple of other people were calling her and walking around the parking lot looking for her.

“I know that has to be frustrating for the prosecution. We’ve all been working a long time on this case. But I guess if she didn’t care, (Ellison) shouldn’t care.”

“I don’t know the exact reason why she didn’t come or if there even was a reason she wasn’t there,” White said. “I think she just didn’t want to come.”

White said Ellison chose not to ask for a continuance.

“I’m sure the judge would have given it to him,” White said. “They could have asked for an hour delay or something to get her there. I’m sure the judge would have done that.”

Attempts to contact Ellison for an interview on Friday were unsuccessful.

White was accused of approaching O’Toole before a preliminary hearing on June 13, 2022, in a private jury room at the Marion County Courthouse in Hannibal and offering her $4,000 not to testify against his client, Blake Schmalzer, 26, of O’Fallon, Mo. Schmalzer had been charged with domestic assault in the third degree and two charges of property damage in the second degree in connection to an April 10, 2022, incident.

Judge Holly Conger-Koenig, associate circuit judge for the First Judicial Circuit, determined during a preliminary hearing on Feb. 1, 2023, that enough evidence existed for the case to go to a trial.

White did not deny during the preliminary hearing that a conversation was held with O’Toole and her mother in a private jury room. However, he testified he did not approach O’Toole about money. White said he was seeking a bond reduction and wanted to discuss O’Toole’s perspective, as O’Toole and Schmalze had a “toxic relationship” that was often up-and-down. 

According to White’s testimony, money was not mentioned until O’Toole brought up $2,600 in car damages — which White said he knew nothing about.

“There just wasn’t a case at all,” White said. “The only time I talked to (Schmalze) was over jail phone calls. They had all those recordings. He never appeared in court in person with me. It was always on WebEx. I never went there to visit him in person. Everything that we ever spoke about (the prosecution has) access to.

“(Schmalze) had called his girlfriend on a recorded jail phone call, and he told her that he had destroyed her car. He said, ‘I’ll give you $4,000. You don’t even have to worry about that.’ I guess it was to pay for damages. He was asking her not to show up to a preliminary hearing that we had scheduled.”

White said he didn’t know anything about Schmalze’s offer until he was accused of tampering with the witness.

“All that the girl did was basically repeat everything that he had said on that phone call,” White said. “That’s how you know it’s not true, because I never knew anything about the phone call. Everything Blake had ever talked to me about was on the recorded calls. So there’s just no way it could have possibly been true.

“(Getting the case dismissed) was (the prosecution’s) best-case scenario. Now they have that to hang their hat on now.”

White hoped the bench trial would have been held to prove his innocence.

“Yeah, (the dismissal) cleared my name either way,” he said. “But I think (the prosecution) was covering their ass so they could say, ‘Well, the witness just didn’t show up.’”

White was running to become an associate judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit when Luke Bryant, prosecuting attorney for Marion County, filed a complaint in Marion County Circuit Court on June 23, 2022. Bryant later had to recuse himself from the case, and Ellison was assigned to the case.

John Jackson handily won his re-election bid, defeating White 3,420 votes to 804 votes in the Republican primary in August 2022.

White remains convinced Bryant made the tampering charge to help him lose the election.

“It was just a worst-case scenario for me as far the election goes, and then of course all of the media stuff certainly didn’t help me,” he said.

White said he hasn’t considered another run at political office yet.

“I just had a bad experience the first time,” he said.

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