VIDEO: Asst. County Attorney with troubled history fired for lat - WDRB 41 Louisville News

VIDEO: Asst. County Attorney with troubled history fired for latest court outburst

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- A Jefferson County prosecutor with a troubled history has been fired after again facing scrutiny for what a judge deemed his "inappropriate behavior" in court on Wednesday.

Judge Sandra McLaughlin is debating whether to hold Assistant County Attorney Bob Fleck in contempt for his action in a district court hearing.

At one point during the hearing, Fleck told McLaughlin, "For the record judge, I think this is bull____."

And Fleck yelled repeatedly at public defender Adam Braunbeck, telling him he was "still wet behind the ears." Fleck also said he had "forgotten more than you will ever know, buddy."

Braunbeck asked McLaughlin to hold Fleck in contempt for not following court orders, using profane language and "straight-up name calling."

County Attorney Mike O'Connell fired Fleck on Thursday "due to your unprofessional conduct in court yesterday," according to his termination letter.

"Your conduct was a clear violation of the zero tolerance suspension agreement," O'Connell said in the letter.

Click HERE to view a copy of the termination letter.

During his contempt hearing Wednesday, Fleck apologized for his "outburst," telling McLaughlin that he had been "needled" by Braunbeck "incessantly" and was also worried that he would be late to lunch with his mother, who doesn't have a cell phone.

"I reacted to that situation poorly," Fleck said, also arguing that Braunbeck didn't have standing to file a motion for contempt against the prosecutor.  Fleck could not be immediately reached for comment.

Braunbeck responded that he had a right to ask for contempt because Fleck's actions made it difficult for his client to get a fair hearing.
McLaughlin said she believed Braunbeck's client received a fair hearing -- in which she found the defendant in contempt of court and sentenced him to 180 days in jail -- but agreed that Fleck's behavior was inappropriate. She said she would take the motion for contempt under consideration.

Jessie Halladay, a spokesperson for the county attorney's office, declined to comment on the termination.

Dan Goyette, head of the Louisville Public Defender's office, which has had a few run-ins with Fleck, also did not want to comment. 

McLaughlin, a former prosecutor herself, was fired by the Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office in 2004 after grabbing a juror and berating her as to why the jury had found a defendant not guilty in a rape case.

Dave Stengel, the commonwealth's attorney at the time, apologized to the jury pool, saying "unfortunately Sandy let a hard loss overwhelm her better judgment," according to a 2004 Courier-Journal story.

Reached by phone on Thursday, McLaughlin said she would likely issue a written ruling in the Fleck case on Monday.

Earlier this year, Fleck was suspended 30 days without pay and ordered to undergo counseling for "highly inappropriate" conduct that included yelling at a defense attorney and threatening to hold the court clerk's office in contempt last month for not producing records quickly enough. 

Because of that, and other disciplinary incidents in his history, officials with the county attorney's office told Fleck earlier this year "there will be a zero tolerance for the types of behavior" for which he has been disciplined, according to a letter in his personnel file.

On Jan. 29, Fleck threatened to file a Kentucky Bar Association complaint against a public defender and forced her to leave a conference room, according to a Feb. 12 suspension letter from the county attorney's office.

And Fleck appeared at the Jefferson Circuit Court clerk's office on Jan. 31, angry about Kentucky Transportation Cabinet records not being produced quickly enough, and "engaged in rude and unprofessional conduct to staff members of that office," according to the letter.  

Fleck threatened contempt charges against the office even though he knew Criminal Division Chief Susan Ely was meeting with the office to "address the problems surrounding these records," according to the suspension letter in Fleck's personnel file.

The two incidents "are consistent with your past disruptive and unprofessional conduct," wrote Ely and First Assistant Julie Hardesty in the letter. Fleck has been suspended before and ordered to attend counseling.  

Fleck was suspended through March 13 but will provide any information necessary about ongoing cases while he is gone and must get an assessment for "anger/stress related conditions," according to the letter. 

Asked at the time why Fleck was not fired, given the past history, Hardesty said in an interview that "Bob has been a committed and talented prosecutor for this office for many years. He does so much good work for the office. We wanted to give him one last chance to correct his behaviors."

And Hardesty said the 30-day suspension without pay is a "severe sanction."

In January 2009, Ely and Hardesty wrote, a subordinate staff member complained about Fleck's conduct and an internal investigation showed he acted in an "aggressive manner, including grabbing file jackets from employees' hands and pushing full boxes onto the floor."

Fleck was ordered to attend counseling but Ely and Hardesty wrote that there has been "repeated unprofessional and disruptive conduct by you since that time."

In March 2012, Fleck was reprimanded for refusing to speak with a defense attorney on a drunken driving case.

"You abruptly left the attorney and told him you would not work at all with him on the case," according to the records.  

According to the disciplinary letter in that case, Fleck refused to work with defense attorney Artie McLaughlin, telling him he would have to get another attorney to handle the case and then walking away. 

In October 2013, Fleck was suspended two days for "purposefully providing erroneous information to the defense bar that the DUI diversion program was being terminated. Our office had never made such a decision."

O'Connell called that behavior "sophomoric" in his suspension letter. 

Fleck, who has been with the office for more than two decades and makes more than $80,000 annually, has several commendation letters in his file.

Also part of Fleck's history with the office is a controversial plea deal he worked out in 2008 with insurance executive Robert "Bobby" Clarkson that O'Connell called "ridiculously lenient."  

O'Connell tried to get the plea deal – in which Clarkson's felony assault charge in injuring a motorcyclist while driving drunk was amended to careless driving – withdrawn but was unsuccessful.

Earlier this year,  a public defender alleged that Fleck cursed at her and forced her to leave a conference room, claiming she had tried to get her case in front of a different prosecutor. 

"He then shut the door while I was still standing in the doorway," attorney Kelly Parry wrote in a summary of the incident to her bosses at the public defender's office. "He pushed the door closed and pushed me out with it."

In his e-mail to the county attorney's office about the incident, Leo Smith, deputy chief of the Louisville public defender's office, said, "As you know, this is not the first problem we have experienced with Mr. Fleck."

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