Attorneys for alleged victims in Chris Jones rape case have "ser - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Attorneys for alleged victims in Chris Jones rape case have "serious concerns" with prosecutors

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Former Louisville basketball player Chris Jones has been released from home incarceration while he waits for a Jefferson County grand jury to hear his rape case. Former Louisville basketball player Chris Jones has been released from home incarceration while he waits for a Jefferson County grand jury to hear his rape case.
Jalen Tilford and Tyvon Walker were also charged in connection to the same event, but were not originally released on home incarceration. Jalen Tilford and Tyvon Walker were also charged in connection to the same event, but were not originally released on home incarceration.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The attorneys for two alleged victims in the Chris Jones rape case say they have "serious concerns" with how the Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's office is treating the former University of Louisville basketball star and believe prosecutors may be steering the case toward a dismissal.

"I'm very concerned that might be the case," said attorney Will Walsh. "It appears to be that an opinion or impression of this case was developed by the commonwealth's attorney prior to them speaking to my victims."

In a press release and interview, Walsh and co-counsel Dina Bartlett criticized prosecutors and Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine repeatedly, claiming the office has been unwilling to meet with them and is handling the case differently than it would any other rape case.

But Wine said in a press release that the case was being handled properly and "there has not been, nor will there be, any special procedures or accommodations made for these defendants or their attorneys." Wine also said that Walsh sent him a letter April 16 outlying many of their concerns and he responded to that letter yesterday.

While a typical grand jury may hear from a police officer and health care worker in a rape case, the defense says they have learned prosecutors are going to basically try the entire case in front of grand jurors in this case next week.

"Wine has not disputed that," Bartlett said.

And among the testimony the grand jury will hear, the attorneys claim, are recorded statements from the defendants. 

"If this is true, it would constitute a radical deviation from well settled Kentucky practice," the attorneys wrote. It would allow the defendants to "contradict the victims without being subject to questioning" from grand jurors, they wrote.

In his response, Wine said he is forbidden by the state Supreme Court to talk in much detail about the case or grand jury proceedings.

The attorneys for the women also remain upset that the alleged victims were not properly notified when Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Barry Willett released Jones and his co-defendants from home incarceration last month at the urging of defense attorneys and without objection from prosecutors.

"No attempt was made to inform our clients of this prior to release," Walsh and Bartlett wrote in the press release. And they said releasing the men "is highly unusual in a rape case."

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The Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's office has said a victim's advocate did try to reach the victims before the defendants were released, but was unsuccessful. The office has said it does not deal with outside parties, referring to Walsh and Bartlett.

Walsh and Bartlett say prosecutors are refusing a request by the alleged victims to have attorney representation. The alleged victims were questioned by Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ryane Conroy "about privileged matters" without their attorneys being present, according to the Walsh and Bartlett.

In an interview, Walsh said he got involved with the case because he has known one of the women since she was a child and wanted to make sure she was treated fairly.

The attorneys said they requested an opportunity to meet with Wine to express their concerns but he has "repeatedly refused that request."

"We as counsel, along with the victims and their family members, are concerned that their experience, as it has unfolded, may discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting," the attorneys said in the release.

They concluded the release by saying they want Jones' case handled "in the same manner that sexual assault cases have been handled in the city for decades.

"We decry any special procedures and accommodations that Mr. Wine has extended to the defense in this case," the attorneys wrote.

A common saying around courthouses, which comes from a 1985 remark by a New York state judge, is that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich" if they wanted.

But Walsh and Bartlett say it's their belief prosecutors have already made up their minds about the case, for whatever reason.

Dave Stengel, who was Commonwealth's Attorney for 15 years before Wine took over, said in an interview that it is rare for prosecutors to essentially try their entire case in front of a grand jury, but not "unheard of."

Stengel referred to a case in 2002 where two Louisville Metro Police fatally shot African-American man holding a box-cutter knife with his hands cuffed behind his back. In that case, the grand jury heard several hours of testimony from about a dozen witnesses, including forensic and self defense experts and everyone who witnessed the shooting.

"If you've got a high profile case and you want to make sure your ducks are in a row, it makes pretty good sense" to show a grand jury most of the evidence, Stengel said. "I think it can be beneficial to the case. You can see the strengths and weaknesses."

Stengel could only think of one possible rape case in which prosecutors put forward a great deal of the evidence in front of a grand jury.

"We did it in real close, questionable cases on occasion," he said.

A story by Insider Louisville Thursday questioned the relationship between Wine and Scott C. Cox, one of the attorneys representing Jones.

The story noted that Kentucky's Registry of Election Finance records show Cox and family have given nearly $6,000 to Wine for his last two political campaigns. And Cox was the campaign manager for Wine in both races, according to the story.

In an interview, Wine said the Insider Louisville story was correct but he argued that lawyers donate to judicial and prosecutor campaign's frequently and there is no rule requiring Wine to recuse himself because of the donations.

"How is a prosecutor supposed to run for office if people don't make donations to their campaigns?" Wine asked. If a judge or top prosecutor had to recuse from every case in which a lawyer had donated money to their campaign, "there would be no one left to prosecute the case."

And Wine's e-mail noted that Conroy was prosecuting the case.

Cox declined to comment on the issue.

Jones has pleaded not guilty on charges of rape and sodomy in February. Jones was originally the only one of the three men charged in connection to the incident who was placed on home incarceration.

While prosecutors asked for a high bond, saying Jones was not from Louisville and was a flight risk, defense attorneys for Jones pointed out that he was in contact daily with University of Louisville police and turned himself in.

Jones is charged with two counts of rape and two counts of sodomy. According to the warrants, Jones raped and sodomized a woman on Feb. 22 and she was able to identify Jones "because she recognized him as a University of Louisville basketball player" and he told her his name. That woman was examined at the university, one warrant says.

District Court Judge Sheila Collins originally released Jones on home incarceration in lieu of a $25,000 bond. The judge ordered Jones to have no contact with the victims, one of whom is a student at U of L. The other was taking online classes at Western Kentucky University.

Jalen Tilford and Tyvon Walker were also charged in connection to the same event. Tilford is charged with one count of rape and one count of sodomy, while Walker is charged with one count of rape.

Court records say the three men forced a woman to have intercourse and oral sex. Police say Walker told them the offense took place in two rooms of the Cardinal Towne Apartment Complex on S. Third Street.

Tilford's bond had been set at $100,000 and Walker's bond had been set at $75,000, before a judge released both to home incarceration like Jones. Defense attorneys had urged for the release and prosecutors did not object.

The investigation has been ongoing and the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has scheduled a Grand Jury presentation for April 27.

Cox has said witnesses at the party the night of the alleged rapes will testify that “every single person who was in the apartment” the night Jones is accused of raping two women will support his innocence.


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