Shepherdsville Mayor says he was 'coerced' into confessing in sex for favors case
Video shows Ellis admitted to a Bullitt County Sheriff’s detective last year that a woman on parole performed oral sex on him in his office and that he once gave her $60 to pay a state required supervision fee.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Shepherdsville Mayor Scott Ellis admitted to a Bullitt County Sheriff’s detective last year that a woman on parole performed oral sex on him in his office and that he once gave her $60 to pay a state required supervision fee.
“What were you thinking that you would be that comfortable to do that in your office?” former Det. Lynn Hunt asked the mayor on Feb. 9, 2015, according to the video, obtained Thursday from the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office.
“Stupid," Ellis responded as he sat with his attorney."Stupid."
But in an interview with WDRB on Thursday, Ellis said he was “coerced” by Hunt, telling her what she wanted to hear after the detective started asking if he had raped the parolee. He said he never had any sexual contact with the women and only gave her $20 for her parole supervision fee as a friend.
“She (Hunt) starts saying, ‘I’m going to charge you with felony charges,” Ellis told WDRB. “And, ‘I’m going to say you raped this woman.’ OK, fine so if I tell you what you want to hear, are you going to leave me alone?'”
Evidence released this week in Ellis’ now dismissed solicitation to prostitution case included hundreds of lurid Facebook messages sent between the mayor and the parolee as well as discussion of exchanging sexual acts for favors, including obtaining a pardon for the woman from then-Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
In one Facebook message, from Oct. 2014, Ellis wrote to the woman, “What I meant by you need something and I need something. Is you needed money for your phone and I needed a bj or sex (sic)."
But in his interview with WDRB, Ellis said he never wrote anything about exchanging sex for favors.
“Do you know how easy it is that you can possibly change a message?” he said.
In the interview with Hunt, Ellis said he told the woman he would try to get her a pardon, but never followed through, telling her he had done so “just to shut her up.”
“I’m a busy guy,” he said. “I never made a phone call to the governor’s office.”
He also denied having giving the woman money for tanning visits, which was alleged by Hunt in her investigative records.
“She was always asking about tanning bed, tanning bed,” Ellis said. “I told her I’m not a millionaire, I’m not rich.”
He told Hunt he gave the woman $60 to pay her parole supervision fee and that he called on her behalf to help her get an apartment.
“She didn’t have the money,” he said of the fee. “She was going to go to jail.”
Ellis never told the detective he gave the woman the money in exchange for sex.
In his interview with WDRB, Ellis said he and the woman did exchange some text messages but after the woman sent him one unsolicited nude photo, he tried to break off what he called a “friendship.”
“I was trying to tell her to leave me alone,” he said. “I don’t think I had any inappropriate relationship.”
"Cut you a break"
At first, during the roughly 20-minute interview with Hunt last year, Ellis denies having any sexual contact with the woman, saying only that the two exchanged text messages.
But Hunt then showed Ellis more than 500 pages of Facebook messages between the mayor and the parole “regarding your sexual activity” and “naked pictures of her.”
And Hunt told Ellis the woman had accused the mayor of raping her.
“I’m trying to cut you a break here,” Hunt told him.
The mayor eventually admitted to the oral sex.
“I’ve beat myself up over this,” he told Hunt.
Special prosecutor Mark Shouse had the indictment for solicitation of prostitution against the mayor dismissed in Nov., saying the evidence did not fit the charge. Shouse, a Hardin County assistant prosecutor, has not returned repeated phone message seeking comment.
Lt. Col. Dan Patchin of the Shepherdsville Police Department wrote in a report included in the evidence this week that the case had been turned over to the FBI.
As for why the misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charge was dismissed, Bullitt County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Captain Mike Murdoch said his office was only responsible for turning over evidence to the prosecutor.
However, Murdoch did point out that Hunt was fired July 16 for violating several department policies, including lying to investigators. She has since been charged with a misdemeanor herself for allegedly accessing files without permission while she was suspended from the department in June. Hunt has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit.
“Moving from one investigator to another, I think that didn’t necessarily help things … and it didn’t speed the process along,” Murdoch said, pointing out that investigators only have a year in which to bring misdemeanor charges.
In a search warrant affidavit, Hunt wrote that in Dec. 2014 she was notified by a state probation and parole officer about an “inappropriate relationship” between the mayor and a parolee.
After an investigation, which included obtaining Facebook messages Ellis sent from his work phone, Hunt concluded a sexual relationship with the woman, on parole for a drug conviction, took place between June and Dec. of 2014.
During that time, Ellis paid $40 to $60 for tanning bed visits for the woman, promised a pardon for her convictions and called an apartment complex on her behalf, according to the investigative records. In exchange, the woman performed oral sex on Ellis in his office, according to the records.
In her investigative letter, Hunt pointed out that under state law, Ellis would not have violated the law if he promised the woman favors for sex but did not follow through. However, it is against the law to use his position to provide benefits in exchange for sex, Hunt wrote.
“Here, having performed sexual acts for payment, this woman has engaged in prostitution,” Hunt wrote. “Mayor Ellis, then, having intentionally encouraged her to commit those acts, has” committed the crime of criminal solicitation, a class B misdemeanor.
The sheriff’s department has said there were three alleged victims, including the woman on parole, and two former employees. The investigative files released Wednesday only mentioned two women.
In March 2015, Hunt interviewed a volunteer firefighter who claimed she also had a sexual relationship with Ellis three years earlier in exchange for a job with the city. She was hired by the Shepherdsville Sewer Department in 2012.
The woman’s ultimate goal was to get a job as a police officer, she told Hunt.
On July 3, 2013, after asking the woman to come to his home to repair a street sign, Ellis told her the only way she would get a job as a police officer was to perform oral sex on him, which she did, the woman told Hunt.
The woman was fired by Ellis and the director of the works department in 2013 because she “causes too much drama,” according to the search warrant. The woman, who is not being named because she is an alleged victim, has since filed a lawsuit against the mayor and city.
WDRB also obtained a letter Shepherdsville Treasurer Gayla Bright sent to the mayor and city council on Jan. 26, saying Ellis had acted inappropriately with her and other women, including an employee from the Louisville Water Company.
Ellis, according to Bright, sat in the lap of the water company employee, “resulting in her feeling very uncomfortable” while she was at the Shepherdsville Government Center.
City Clerk Tammy Richmond also met with Shepherdsville police regarding alleged inappropriate behavior the mayor had with office clerks, Bright wrote. Other female city employees also complained of Ellis’ behavior, she said.
“I believe that the City Council of Shepherdsville has a responsibility ... to actively investigate my complaint addressed,” Bright wrote.
Bright also claims Ellis retaliated against her because she cooperated with an investigation.
On Thursday, Ellis denied all the allegations against him and said he has no plans on resigning.
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