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: A meeting at the Kenton County Mayors Group this week focused on the region's struggles with heroin. You told the Cincinnati Enquirer that eighty-percent of your cases involve drugs and the majority of those involve heroin. Do you think the meeting will help the region's fight against the growing problem? Also, Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmonson said in the same article that "we have lost the war on drugs". Do you agree with that?
SANDERS: I didn't find the mayor's meeting overly productive in and of itself, but anytime we can draw attention to the opiate epidemic, it's a good thing. If the meeting gets just one more elected official involved in lobbying Frankfort for help with law enforcement and treatment, then it was a success and worthwhile.
I don't think we've "lost" the "war on drugs" any more than we've lost the war on cancer, the war on AIDS, the war on homelessness, the war on poverty, the war on crime, or the war on terror. Then again, I don't think we've "won" any of those wars either. Personally, I'd like to see us do away with referring to on-going efforts to improve society as "wars" because wars can be won, and, sooner or later, wars come to an end. I suppose "declaring war" on issues has a dramatic effect that grabs headlines, but eventually it leads to defeatist statements about having "lost" when a society doesn't eradicate the ill within a few years. Might we cure cancer or AIDS someday? I hope so. Will we ever completely rid the world of homelessness, poverty, crime, or terrorists? Probably not. These problems have been around for generations and they aren't going away just because some politician "declared war" on them. What we can do, however, is look for strategies and resources to minimize the damage they do to our world. I view our efforts against drug addicition, and more importantly against the dealers who prey upon the drug addicts, in the same way. If we just say "we lost the war on drugs" and quit, the devastation on our community would be epic. We just cannot accept that kind of society.
RCN: Randall & Janina Byrd received five-year prison sentences for "making false statements to obtain benefits". Your newsletter indicates that Janina Byrd's sentence is probated for five years while Randall Byrd will go to prison with a sentence that will run concurrent with another sentence. What are the details on the Byrds' case?
The Byrds were two of the four owners of the Cash-In "pawn shops" who were convicted of Enganging in Organized Crime
. Since all of their income was illicit, they told the government they had none and applied for food stamps. This case was all about getting restitution for the taxpayers of Kentucky. The judge probated Janina Byrd for a Class B felony of Organized Crime over our prison recommendation so we really didn't see much hope that he'd send her to prison over food stamps, hence the probation recommendation in exchange for the guilty plea. It is significant though because defendants cannot get off probation until restitution is paid. Likewise, we didn't add any time to Randall's sentence but he won't be able to get off of parole until he makes restiution. I suspect both the Byrds will be reporting to a probation and parole officer for decades until they pay back the Commonwealth.
RCN: Anthony Hess is going to prison for ten years after you landed a conviction for two counts of wanton endangerment and possession of a hand gun by a convicted felon. What did Hess do?
SANDERS: Hess came home drunk one night and got in an argument with his live-in girlfriend over whether or not they would engage in intercourse. Needless to say, he was in favor of it and she was not. When Hess started using racial slurs, the girlfriend (who is African-American) packed up the child they share and headed for the car. Hess came outside and fired multiple shots into the roof of the car, nearly striking the child. Hess had some outlandish excuse about shooting at a drug dealer across the street but it was utterly ridiculous. Hess was originally indicted for Attempted Murder but, as is all too common in these domestic cases, the victim decided she still loved him and didn't want him to go to prison. She talked to him on the jail phones every night and then wrote a letter to the court swearing that he was not trying to kill her and would never intentionally harm his child. It's tough to win an Attempted Murder case when the victim says the defendant wasn't trying to kill her, so I agreed to a 10 year sentence. He deserves a lot more time but my uncooperative victim jeopardized the case.
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 Circuit Court
Photo: Anthony Hess/Kenton Co. Detention Center