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: In reading the description of the Jason Cline sentencing (Cline worked at a church and had sexual encounters with an underafe boy), it was noted that the mother of the victim contacted Cline and told him to stay away from her son. When there is concern that that a child may be in a sexual or otherwise inappropriate relationship with an adult, particularly a supposed authority figure, is it recommended that a parent contact the suspect directly or to go to the authorities solely?
SANDERS: Go straight to police! Confronting the suspect may be a natural inclination but it can hurt the investigation and prosecution in at least two important ways. First, it deprives police of the element of surprise. Evidence in sexual abuse cases is hard to come by. Usually its just the victim's word against the suspect's word. In some cases, however, if police have the element of surprise, they can conduct a sting to see if a suspect will make incriminating statements. I don't want to be any more specific about stings in order to protect future investigations, but the element of surprise is key. If the suspect is confronted by a parent, they know the police will be coming shortly thereafter so the suspect starts getting a story together. Catching a suspect off-guard increases the chances of getting the truth, or at least locking them into a story they didn't have time to think through.
A confrontation also creates issues at trial. Defense attorneys try to convicnce juries the allegations have to do with some on-going fued rather than being the truth. It's not hard to convince a jury that if the allegations were true, the victim's parents would have gone straight to police, not to argue about it. Again, sex abuse cases are already hard enough. We really don't want well-intentioned parents creating even more hurdles than we already have.
RCN: Amy Downs pleaded guilty to engaging in organized crime and your office is seeking a ten-year prison sentence. What is the organized crime case involving this woman?
SANDERS: Amy Downs is part of what's become known as the "Cash-In" case. It all began when Covington Police went to what appeared to be a pawnshop at 26th & Madison to serve a city citation for operating without a occupational license. Inside, detectives found what they believe was a huge cache of stolen merchandise. The resulting investigation lasted months and resulted in over 30 indictments. Its alleged to be an organized ring of professional shoplifters who would sell their haul to the Cash-In store. The owners/operators of Cash-In would then sell the stolen goods on the internet at greatly reduced prices. Investigators believe Cash-In was making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from selling the stolen goods online. Most of the 30+ defendants have pled guilty to some kind of theft or stolen property offenses. The alleged ring-leader, Charlie Wilson, pled guilty to Theft Over $10K and was in the newsletter last week. He's looking at a 10 year sentence. The rest are currently on trial before Judge Bartlett. The case started last week and is expected to last a month.
RCN: Jon Hall is being sent away for 2 years for flagrant non-support. If a father is failing to contribute to his child's well-being financially, what is the rationale behind putting a deadbeat dad in prison where that financial contribution would be seemingly impossible? Is there a bigger message being sent to these irresponsible fathers?
SANDERS: It is very, very rare for anyone to go to straight to prison for Flagrant Non-Support. Usually defendants are given every opportunity to start paying for their children before getting locked up. Even then, judges usually start with weekends in the county jail, then months in the county jail, before finally revoking a probated sentence and sending the defendant to prison. Child Support enforcement is handled by the County Attorney's Office. Their prosecutors are cross-designated as Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys just for that purpose. I'm not sure what Mr. Hall's situation was but knowing that every effort is made to collect payments before imposing prison, I can only assume he displayed an absolute unwillingness to pay.
See the full list and mugshots of those who were convicted of felonies in Kenton County Circuit Court in addition to a full explanation of the Cline case at the link: This Week in Kenton Co Court
PHOTO: Jason Cline