Raw emotion spills out of courtroom as former Bullitt County special deputy faces drug charges
Federal prosecutors say former Bullitt County special deputy Chris Mattingly was the head of a drug cell in Kentucky that coordinated with a cartel in California and had links to Mexico
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – Leonard Mattingly and some of his other family members walked out of a federal courtroom with a lot of emotion. They were there to listen to his son, Chris Mattingly's, wiretap case.
"What do you want people to know?" asked WDRB's Valerie Chinn.
"Get out of my face," Leonard Mattingly said. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Why don't you do it live. so you can hear the real truth?" demanded another family member. "You are all nothing but a bunch of [EXPLETIVE] liars."
"Well, tell us the truth then," Chinn replied.
The attorneys for former Bullitt County special deputy Chris Mattingly, who federal prosecutors say was the head of a drug cell in Kentucky that coordinated with a cartel in California and had links to Mexico, argued Tuesday that crucial wiretap evidence should be thrown out.
For starters, defense attorney Brian Butler said a judge in Riverside County, Calif., had authorized an “astronomical” amount of wiretaps in 2014, using “boilerplate” language and without prosecutors justifying why lesser measures weren’t taken.
“It’s an assembly line for wiretaps,” Butler told U.S. District Judge David J. Hale.
And Butler said all 624 wiretaps in 2014 were improperly approved by an assistant district attorney, violating a law requiring the elected district attorney to personally approve each application unless he is unable to do so.
Mattingly and five other men have been indicted on charges alleging they distributed enormous amounts of cash and more than a ton of marijuana from Bullitt County throughout the country.
Investigators have also accused Mattingly of plotting to kill Capt. Mike Halbleib of the Bullitt County Drug Task Force, which has been leading the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Fentress told Judge Hale that prosecutors only plan to use one of five wiretaps in the Mattingly case – and argued that there is no question that particular wiretap, from March 11, 2014, was properly approved.
“All of the other wiretaps are completely irrelevant,” Fentress said.
But Butler argued that the wiretap Fentress mentioned would be the “fruit” of the original improperly approved wiretap.
“If that one is bad, they are all bad,” he said during the hearing.
Judge Hale pointed out that the attorneys were asking him to decide if prosecutors and a judge in California made mistakes that would affect a case here.
“I’m in court in Kentucky, and I’m being asked to examine California state law,” he said. The judge gave both sides 10 days to file additional responses on the issue before he makes a decision.
Mattingly has been in the Oldham County Jail without bond since he was first indicted on drug charges in September. He has pleaded not guilty.
The other men charged include Ronald Shewmaker, an alleged money courier and Eddie Whitfill, the caretaker of a Breckinridge County farm where Mattingly raised and sold chickens.
Shewmaker was stopped by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on May 4, 2014, in Perris, Calif. Investigators, acting on information obtained from wiretaps, seized about $420,000.
Shewmaker declined to comment after court on Thursday.
An attorney for Whitfill, Patrick Renn, said in an interview that he was “really surprised” his client has been charged.
“We didn’t feel like there was any evidence to support the allegations against him.”
The investigation into Mattingly started more than 2,200 miles away when he surfaced last year talking on a wiretap investigators had on the cartel in Riverside, Calif.
The cartel is accused of distributing narcotics to several states, including Missouri, Texas, Georgia and Kentucky. Drug enforcement agencies from St. Louis, Lexington, Louisville and areas in California have been investigating for years.
Police have seized hundreds of thousands of dollars they claim are linked to Mattingly.
During at least part of the time Mattingly has been under investigation, he was serving as a special deputy to the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Department.
Special deputies are appointed by the sheriff and have the same powers as a regular deputy, with some exceptions, such as not being allowed to make arrests in domestic violence cases.
He worked as a special deputy in 2013 and 2014, the department said.
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