Kenneth Betts WDRB Background

Kenneth Betts (WDRB file photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – A federal judge has rejected a plea deal offered to Kenneth Betts, one of two former Louisville Metro Police officers accused of sexually abusing teens in the department's youth mentoring Explorer program. 

U.S. District Court Judge Dave Hale felt the plea agreed to by prosecutors and the defense calling for 15 years in prison was too lenient and gave both sides the option of coming up with a new "less favorable" sentence or allowing Betts to withdraw his plea and go to trial. 

A new hearing date is scheduled for August 14.

A Thursday afternoon hearing for Betts in state court has been cancelled. He had planned to plead guilty to sodomy charges. 

Betts had been scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on enticement and child pornography charges earlier this month, but Hale felt the proposed plea deal calling for 10 to 15 years in prison was too lenient.

In the meantime, both sides submitted motions to the judge making their case for the proposed sentence of 15 years. 

While federal guidelines call for a 27-year prison sentence for Betts, Hale indicated on Thursday the proposed sentence was "not out of bounds, but not acceptable."

The judge did not say in court how many years in prison would be an acceptable sentence. 

In January, Betts pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of knowingly distributing child pornography, possession of child pornography, transferring obscene material to a minor, enticement and attempted enticement, among other charges.

The allegations against Betts stretch from his first year in the department in 2006 through 2016.

Betts and former officer Brandon Wood are both facing criminal charges and civil litigation in Jefferson Circuit Court stemming from their alleged sexual abuse of teens under their supervision as part of a program for young people interested in law enforcement careers.

Wood pleaded guilty in January to an attempted enticement charge in federal court. His sentencing is scheduled for May 28.

In state court, Wood was also indicted on seven counts of sexual abuse with one alleged victim, a juvenile, stemming from incidents in 2011 and 2012. He is expected to plead guilty next week.

In state court, Betts is accused of engaging 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.

Betts quit the force in April 2014 after the complaints came to light.

The Explorer program, which has been suspended, mentored teens interested in becoming police officers. Students worked closely with officers at events such as the Kentucky Derby.

Police and city officials are accused in seven federal lawsuits 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 conspiracy to cover up the wrongdoing, according to lawsuits.

Police are also accused of falsifying reports, deleting phone records and audio files and destroying other records.

An investigation into LMPD's handling of allegations of sexual misconduct in the youth Explorer program found police made several "mistakes," including a failure to look into possible criminal conduct and determine if the abuse was widespread.

But the report ultimately concluded there was no massive cover-up by police or city officials.

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Digital Reporter

Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.