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Prosecutor Talks Police Shooting, Dismemberment Case

Each week The River City News talks with Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders about his weekly e-newsletter that highlights who was sent to prison or got probation in the previous week. At the bottom of this post you can find a link to that newsletter. Here are this week's questions and answers:

RCN: Austin Eash, 22, has accepted a plea deal in the gruesome murder on Covington's Eastside that resulted in a man killed and dismembered. Eash faces only 15 years for his role in the slaying. What can you tell us about this case and what the others involved may face at trial? 

SANDERS: There's not a lot I can say about the others because their cases are still pending (The other defendants are Tiffany Herrera, 28, and a male juvenile).  Each still faces 20-50 or Life if convicted.  Mr. Eash has agreed to testify against his co-defendants which is extremely important because I anticipate at least one co-defendant will allege some kind of self defense claim.  Without Mr. Eash's testimony, we would have nothing more than circumstancial evidence to combat such a claim.  I believe the evidence at trial will show Mr. Eash only became involved with these crimes after Mr. Brown was already killed and that this killing was murder, not self defense. There's no doubt the dismemberment of Mr. (Donnell) Brown's body is inflammatory and offensive, but, amazingly, in KY, Abuse of a Corpse is only a misdemeanor.  Thus, while Mr. Eash's participation in the mutilation of the victim's body is disgusting, KY law provides no significant punishment for it.  I'm sure Mr. Brown's family isn't very happy about the status of the law, nor am I, but we can't change it, at least as it applies to this case.

RCN: On Friday a Covington Police officer was wounded while attempting to arrest a robbery suspect. Police Chief Spike Jones expects suspect Pharo Wilson to face charges of assault and attempted murder. Wilson has already served time in prison and has a lengthy criminal record, so do you expect, if convicted, that Wilson will face a lengthy sentence? 

SANDERS: Wilson has already been charged with 3 counts of attempted murder and 1 count of 1st Degree Assault, each of which is a B felony carrying 10-20 years.  I know he has at least 1 prior felony because I convicted him.  If it weren't for KY's joke of "truth in sentencing" laws, he would still be in prison and none of this would have happened.  Anyhow, if convicted, he's eligible for Persistent Felony Offender status which means even just one prior felony will bump a B felony up to 20-50 or Life.  Once a defendant gets to that punishment range, KY finally gets serious about sentencing.  The mimimum parole eligiblity for all 20-50 or Life crimes is 17-20 years.  So yes, I expect Mr. Wilson to face a significant sentence if convicted, which he should.  I'm not sure what goes on in other jurisdictions but in NKY, we support our police and certainly will not tolerate anyone who tries to kill them.

RCN: In addition to the now consistent list of heroin-related convictions there are also several convictions last week related to oxycodone, a legal drug. Does your office and the police departments face a tougher challenge in arresting and prosecuting those who traffic or abuse a drug that can be acquired legally? How do these folks "traffic" what can be obtained with a prescription? 

SANDERS: Oxycodone is only legal if you have a prescription that was legitimately obtained.  Combating pain pills that are illegally obtained, possessed and/or sold is complicated when the suspect has a prescription for the pills.  In the vast majority of cases, the defendants do not have a prescription.  Even if they have a prescription, it is illegal to give or sell the pills to another person, hence the trafficking charges. There are, however, a handful of cases each year when police catch someone abusing pills in some fashion (usually crushing up the pill and snorting the powder) but the suspect turns out to have a prescription for the pills.  We usually look into it and make certain the pills were the same ones obtained from the script because if someone is crushing a pill and snorting it, which defeats the time release seal on the pill, then they are usually using far more than just what the doctor ordered.  Any pills obtained above and beyond those prescribed are just as illegal as if they never had a script in the first place.

It is important for folks to remember that pain pills are the gateway to heroin.  Few people start out injecting heroin on day 1.  People don't think of pain pills as being dangerous, or at least not as dangerous as heroin.  In fact, both pain pills and heroin are opiates.  They have the same extremely addictive qualities as well as horribly painful withdrawal.  Pain pills are readily accessible and don't carry the same stigma as heroin but they are also much more expensive.  Once someone is addicted to pain pills, they will beg, borrow, and steal to get money for more.  When they start running out of funds, it's only a matter of time till they turn to heroin because its significantly cheaper. Once they are on heroin, they're usually bound for either prison or the grave.   

See the full list and mugshots of those who were convicted of felonies in Kenton County Circuit Court at the link: This Week in Kenton Circuit Court

PHOTO: Austin Eash