News Around the State

Retired judge responds to governor’s criticism

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A recently retired Kentucky Supreme Court justice who wrote the opinion striking down Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension law has responded to the governor’s criticism of the ruling as an “unprecedented power grab by activist judges.”

Justice Daniel Venters writes in an Op-Ed he is a conservative Republican who voted for Bevin and has generally agreed with his policy initiatives, including the pension bill Bevin signed into law last year. But Venters said it was clear the law violated the state Constitution, which all judges take an oath to uphold.

Venters warned that Bevin’s “false attacks on Kentucky’s judges will undermine the public’s confidence and trust in the Courts.”

Bevin is on an economic development trip to India. Representatives from his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

City selling 1921 submachine gun

JENKINS, Ky. (AP) — A city in eastern Kentucky is auctioning a 1921 Thompson submachine gun to raise money for its police department.

Jenkins Mayor Todd DePriest told WYMT-TV that the gun appraises for at least $75,000 and officials hope to use proceeds to match grant funding that will allow them to buy new police equipment.

DePriest says the city bought the gun from a consolidated coal company, probably in the 1920s. He says the story passed down is that the gun was used to guard the payroll when it came in on the train.

Until it’s sold, police say they are storing it in a safe place.

City officials say they are working with an auction company to find history on the item and to help sell it.

Malfeasance charge against jailer dropped

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (AP) — A misdemeanor criminal charge against a former Kentucky jailer has been dismissed.

The Independent reports court paperwork shows the malfeasance charge against former Boyd County Jailer Joe Burchett was dropped Jan. 11 after former members of the Fiscal Court did not oppose the move considering that Burchett resigned from office.

The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled. Burchett was indicted by a grand jury last year after several incidents at the county detention center that included inmate escapes. The indictment said Burchett willfully neglected the discharge of his official duties. He pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence.

Burchett resigned in December following two inmate deaths over a four-day period.

Feedback sought on plan for campground improvements

LUCAS, Ky. (AP) — A public hearing is planned this month to get feedback on proposed campground improvements at Barren River Lake State Resort Park.

Kentucky State Parks said in a statement that the hearing would be held at the park on Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. Officials are seeking public comment as part of the process to obtain grant funding for the project, which would upgrade sewer, water and electric at selected campsites.

The hearing is open to anyone interested in commenting on the proposal. Officials are also taking written comments that can be sent to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program in Frankfort. They must be received by Feb. 7.

Ex-lawmaker resigns job at education department

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Kentucky lawmaker has resigned from his job at the state Department of Education after his name surfaced in a deposition by the woman who accused the state’s ex-House speaker of sexual harassment.

Brad Montell said in a social media post on Wednesday that he was stepping down to prevent “recent events from creating a distraction” from the department’s work. He did not respond directly to the allegation and could not be reached for comment.

Montell served as director for government relations at the Education Department. Earlier, he served as deputy secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

The woman said in her deposition that when she asked Montell to donate to a political candidate, he said he’d do so only if she sat in his lap. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Kentucky Public Radio published details of the sealed deposition.

Coroner: Wrong-way driver in fatal crash was drunk

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky official says the wrong-way driver who killed a vacationing Michigan family on Interstate 75 had a blood-alcohol content more than three times the legal limit.

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn says in a statement that 41-year-old Joey Bailey of Georgetown had a .306 blood-alcohol content and was at fault in the crash that killed six people. The legal limit in Kentucky is .08.

Lexington police have said a pickup truck going southbound the northbound lanes struck a sport utility vehicle at 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 6 and the SUV caught fire.

The crash killed five members of the Abbas family of Northville, Michigan: 42-year-old Issam, 38-year-old Rima, 14-year-old Ali, 13-year-old Isabella and 7-year-old Giselle. Bailey also died.

Man arrested in rape, robbery at university

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A New Hampshire man is accused of robbing several University of Louisville students at gunpoint and then forcing one of them into a walk-in closet where he raped her.

The Courier Journal reports 21-year-old Alfred Kesseh was arrested this week and pleaded not guilty to charges including rape and burglary. Campus police Chief Gary Lewis says the attacks happened last week at apartments near campus.

News outlets report police say Kesseh broke into several of those apartments and robbed students at gunpoint. Police say he also held one woman at gunpoint and raped her in her walk-in closet.

University spokesman John Karman says is not a student at the school. He’s set to appear in court next week. It’s unclear if he has a lawyer.

Airborne wheel strikes truck, kills Ky. woman on I-65

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — State Police say a motorist died on a southern Indiana highway after a wheel that came off another vehicle went airborne and struck her pickup truck.

Police say 18-year-old Olivia Kustes of Rineyville, Kentucky, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 65 just north of the Ohio River in Clarksville.

Police say the rear diver’s side wheel came off of a southbound pickup driven by 51-year-old Peter Gaetano of Covert, Michigan, and crossed over a median wall into the northbound lanes, where it struck Kustes’ truck.

Police say a commercial vehicle driver, 45-year-old Alvin Logan of Chicago, maneuvered his semitrailer in front of Kustes’ truck to slowly bring it to a stop.

Dorm where mold found won’t reopen until fall

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — A Western Kentucky University dormitory where mold was discovered last year will remain closed until fall while additional work is performed.

The university said in a news release that Minton Hall won’t reopen with other residence halls Friday for the spring semester. The release said staff identified additional work needed during an inspection this week.

The school said the additional work includes replacement of porous tiles and possible replacement of windows to help in the future.

Western Vice President for Enrollment and Student Experience Brian Kuster said officials believe the additional work should be performed before students return.

The residence hall closed Nov. 12 when common mold was discovered. Remediation included replacement of room ceiling tiles, addition of venting tiles, new air filters, and repair and balancing of air-handling equipment.