Metro Council President says he can represent plaintiffs in LMPD - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Council President says he can represent plaintiffs in LMPD Explorer sex abuse case without conflict

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An attorney for a retired Louisville Metro Police Department officer asked Metro Council President David Yates Monday if he is "abdicating" his duty to citizens by suing the city for millions as attorney for alleged victims in the police Explorer program sex abuse lawsuits.

But Yates testified his "duty" is to bring justice to alleged victims and ensure officers involved are held accountable. 

"I had no power in my presidency to do that," Yates said, arguing that by suing the city on behalf of two former LMPD Explorers, two officers have been indicted and another is being investigated. 

Attorney Lee Sitlinger, who represents former Maj. Curtis Flaherty - accused of covering up sex abuse by officers - argued Yates' responsibility was to bring this to light as head of the council, where he could have asked police about the allegations during meetings. Yates has abstained from discussing or voting about police matters since he filed the initial suit. 

"The fact that you stand to get millions of dollars has nothing to do with it?" Sitlinger asked Yates. 

Yates said that he has spent hundreds of hours working with these alleged victims and "every lawyer gets paid for their services.

"...At the end of the day, you do the right thing," he said.

This was the second hearing over whether his role as council president is a conflict that prohibits him from suing the city.

He has repeatedly sought to separate his role as an attorney from that of council president, while also maintaining that he was stepping up to right a wrong that has been hushed up in Louisville for years.

Legal ethics experts are also testifying Wednesday. Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman is not expected to make a ruling today. 

The victim in the initial lawsuit, identified only as "N.C." claims former Officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood sexually abused him while he was a teen in the department's youth Explorer program between 2011 and 2013.

In addition, police officials are accused of concealing evidence of the conduct by intimidation, destruction of evidence, deletion of information and refusal to comply with the Kentucky Open Records Act, as well as a conspiracy to cover up the wrongdoing, according to the suit. 

N.C. is suing Metro government, the police department, Wood, Betts, retired Maj. Flaherty and the Boy Scouts of America.

Sitlinger accused Yates of "defaming and libeling a very good man" in Flaherty. 

Yates said he did not learn of the alleged abuse of teens in the Explorer program though his position at the council, but word of mouth in the community and discussions with alleged victims around June 2016. 

As a member of the Metro Council, a settlement in the case would be a conflict for Yates because he votes on the city budget, which funds lawsuit settlements, Sitlinger told Yates. 

Yates's witnesses, including Louisville attorney Peter Ostermiller, who defends lawyers in bar disciplinary cases, were scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon. 

Yates recently filed a second lawsuit on behalf of another alleged victim, accusing Betts of raping the former Explorer. That lawsuit is currently sealed.

Wood has been indicted on seven counts of sexual abuse with one alleged victim, a juvenile, stemming from incidents in 2011 and 2012.

Betts was charged with two counts of sodomy involving two different alleged victims. The indictment alleges Betts engaged in "deviate sexual intercourse" with one of the victims through the use of "forcible compulsion" over a five-month period in 2007.

And Betts is accused of committing sodomy on July 26, 2013 with a minor "he came into contact with as a result" of his position as a police officer.

This story will be updated. 

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