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: Hasan Dukes is facing twenty-eight years after pleading guilty to sodomy, rape, and being a persistent felony offender. What's his story?
SANDERS: In 2011, Ft. Mitchell Police were called to an apartment complex off Huckleberry Drive for a reported rape. A female resident of the complex was outside her apartment smoking a cigarette when a black man approached her with a mask of some sort. He dragged the woman into a nearby wooded area and threatened to shoot her if she did not perform intercourse and other sex acts. He then fled and she immediately called police and was taken to the hospital for a sexual assault exam. Unfortunately, the victim could not identify a suspect beyond skin color and general build because of his masked face. A year later, in 2012, the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab determined that semen recovered during the sexual assault exam matched the DNA profile of Hasan Dukes. The KY Department of Corrections had collected Dukes' DNA when he was serving an unrelated prison sentence and submitted it to the KSP database for comparison to unsolved crimes. Ft. Mitchell Police Detective Ron Wietholter obtained a warrant for Dukes' arrest charging him with first degree rape and first degree sodomy. A persistent felony offender charge was added by the Grand Jury.
Cases don't get much stronger than this one. Dukes asked to plead guilty and serve twenty-eight years. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Leanne Beck was fully prepared to go to trial but gave the victim the option of accepting the plea agreement if she wanted to avoid testifying. The victim, understandably, did not want to relive the ordeal on the witness stand so Dukes was permitted to plead guilty with an agreed sentence of 28 years. He will have to undergo sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender.
This case is a great illustration of why DNA collection from convicted felons is so important. DNA collection is less intrusive than giving blood. All they do is swab the inmates mouth with a Q-tip. It's even faster and more precise than collecting fingerprints. A large majority of crime is committed by repeat offenders. When we have their DNA on file, violent, horrible crimes like this one get solved where they otherwise wouldn't.
RCN: Ronnie Rider was also pleaded guilty to a rape charge, but his charge was in the third degree. In addition to his guilty plea to other charges (escape and tampering with prisoner monitoring device) it looks like he's going away for a total of six years. What did Rider do?
SANDERS: Rider was charged with having sexual intercourse with a 14-year old relative. The relative was spending the night at Rider's mother's home when she said Rider invited her to sleep on his air mattress. The girl told Ft. Wright Police that the two laid awake talking into the early morning hours before she fell asleep. She said she was awakened later in the morning by Rider on top of her, engaging in intercourse. The girl stated this lasted for several minutes before he quit and climbed off, stating that it was "too awkward." She remained at the home the rest of the day before leaving that evening. Once home, she reported the crime and responded to the hospital for a sexual assault exam. Rider was 22-years old at the time.
While out on bond for that offense, Rider was subject to electronic monitoring through the Kenton County Detention Center. Jail deputies received a "cuff strap tamper" alert, meaning the ankle strap Rider was wearing had been cut off. When they tried to contact Rider, his girlfriend answered the phone and told deputies the two had gotten into an argument. She said she left Rider and went to work and when she returned home, the electronic monitor was still there but Rider was no place to be found. He was then charged with Escape and Tampering With a Prison Monitoring Device.
The total sentence is 6 years in prison. Rider will have to complete sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender. He was previously convicted of burglary in Kenton County and the jury gave him a one year sentence, which he served out before committing these new offenses.
RCN: Are the Bethany Smith and Daniel James cases related? Looks like both pleaded guilty on the same day to the same charges (trafficking heroin while in possession of a firearm). Their sentences are also the same which looks like 7 years in prison, but instead of serving that time they are on probation for five years. What can you tell us about these two?
SANDERS: Covington Police were called to Willie's Sports Bar by an employee of the restaurant who reported seeing a grey pick-up speeding through the parking lot before coming to a stop near a dumpster. Two young girls were then let out of the truck and began playing by the dumpster. As the employee approached the truck, Smith exited. The employee told Smith it wasn't safe for the girls to play there due to broken glass and other hazards. Smith told the employee the girls just needed to use the bathroom but then declined the employee's offer to go inside and use the restaurant facilities. Suspecting something was wrong, the employee said she would call police if Smith did not take her children and move along. When the truck remained in the parking spot, the employee called 911.
Officers Jim Miskanin, Jeff Cook, and Charlie Beil arrived moments later. As officers approached, they could see Smith stuffing items under her seat. The officers asked the couple to exit the car and separated the two. Miskanin quickly spotted a vial of heroin hanging from James's belt buckle. A search of the vehicle revealed a syringe loaded with heroin, numerous unloaded syringes, digital scales, and three handguns. Smith's cell phone also contained text messages indicating the couple was planning to deliver some of the heroin and syringes to another person who was awaiting their arrival. They had apparently just taken Smith's two young girls along to Cincinnati where they stocked up on heroin to bring back to Northern Kentucky to sell, but stopped in the Willie's lot to shoot up before going about their drug dealing. Both were charged with trafficking in a controlled substance (heroin) with firearm and first degree wanton endangerment.
Both agreed to plead guilty to the trafficking charge in exchange for a dismissal of the wanton endangerment charge and a 5-year prison recommendation from Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Casey Burns. At sentencing, Judge Martin Sheehan gave them 7 1/2 years instead of 5, but probated that sentence for five years, meaning neither Smith nor James will serve any time in prison unless they violate probation. As a matter of policy, my office does not recommend probation for drug dealers, much less drug dealers with guns, and especially not drug dealers with guns and with kids in tow, but the judges have final say on sentencing.
RCN: I know we talk about heroin a lot, but each week your list of convicts is full of heroin-related crimes. It was reported last week that the Kenton County Grand Jury indicted twenty more people on heroin-related charges on the same day. It was also reported in media outside the area that heroin is growing in Louisville and in Central Kentucky. This is what you have said before was going to happen, and possibly before any serious effort is made to fight the epidemic. Now that the drug is spreading are you more optimistic that increased resources are on the way?
SANDERS: Twenty heroin-related charges on last week's grand jury is about par for the course these days. That number doesn't even include the one pain pill charge last week or the numerous other offenses committed by heroin addicts seeking money for drugs. Those were only heroin trafficking and possession cases.
Heroin has officially arrived in Louisville. It's starting to show up in Lexington. I think Lexington has only noticed the arrival of heroin because all of the noise Northern Kentucky has been making about the epidemic in the media. It will be a few months before Lexington really starts to appreciate the problem they have on their hands. By the time Lexington knows what's hit them, heroin will have spread down the Mountain Parkway and that's when the death toll will explode. We're fortunate enough to have EMS close by virtually everywhere. When an ambulance is 30 minutes or more away from an overdose like it is down in the mountains, NARCAN (the drug used to reverse the effects of opiates) won't be nearly as effective at saving lives as it is in Northern Kentucky where ambulance response time is probably only 5-10 minutes at most.
To answer your question though, no, I am not overly optimistic that meaningful help will arrive anytime soon. Northern Kentucky's problems don't get taken seriously in Frankfort until it starts to impact other parts of the state. Even though heroin is showing up in our two largest cities, it still hasn't devastated communities like it is in Northern Kentucky. Our local legislative caucus seems to "get it" though. I am very encouraged by Senator Katie Stine's Senate Bill 6 that would let us prosecute drug dealers for overdose deaths. Even if it doesn't pass this session, it's a serious call to action and, hopefully, a warning shot that rural legislators will notice, and heed. Hopefully I am just jaded and pessimistic, and our legislature will respond to the heroin crisis now. I just wouldn't get my hopes up.
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. Circuit Court
Photo: Hasan Dukes/Kenton Co. Jail