Seneca man pleads guilty in Joplin assault case

Oct. 27—A 34-year-old defendant took a plea offer this week in a felony assault case stemming from a shooting three years ago in Joplin.

Paul D. Phillips Jr., of rural Seneca, pleaded guilty Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court to a reduced count of second-degree assault and to a count of unlawful possession of a firearm in a plea agreement dismissing a third count of armed criminal action and limiting the prison time he might receive to no more than 10 years.

Circuit Judge Gayle Crane delayed formal acceptance or rejection of the plea bargain and ordered the completion of a sentencing assessment prior to the defendant's sentencing hearing Feb. 27.

Phillips shot 38-year-old Mark Kiefer in the arm with a 9-mm pistol the night of Aug. 5, 2019, in the 1200 block of South Connor Avenue and fled the scene in a Jeep SUV, according to a police report at the time.

A police dispatcher received a call from the victim just before the shooting reporting that another man was pointing a gun at him. Phillips admitted to police following his arrest that he was at the location selling drugs at the time and had two 9-mm pistols in his possession.

An officer responding to the gun-pointing report spotted the suspect's SUV on South Highway 43 shortly after the shooting and tried to pull him over. A pursuit ensued during which Phillips threw both guns out a window.

He eventually was stopped in Galena, Kansas, and taken into custody with assistance from police and Cherokee County sheriff's deputies. Joplin police subsequently recovered both guns.

Kiefer initially was taken to a Joplin hospital for treatment of his wound but later had to be transferred to a hospital in Springfield.

Phillips was a convicted felon at the time of the shooting and thereby prohibited from possessing firearms.

Court records show that he received a suspended imposition of sentence in 2018 on a conviction for felony possession of a controlled substance as well as suspended sentences in 2013 for vehicle tampering, in 2014 for receiving stolen property and in 2016 for theft.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe.