LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A special prosecutor told a judge Wednesday that Louisville Metro Police did not push him to ask a grand jury to reconsider a felony assault charge against Metro Council President David Yates.
Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Geoghegan told Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Audra Eckerle that he could “assure everyone” LMPD did not influence his decision to pursue the case against Yates.
Yates' lawyers had argued Monday that LMPD should be recused from the case because of an "outrageous conflict of interest" -- and not allowed to present evidence against him.
Yates is the lead attorney suing police over allegations of sexual assault in its youth Explorer program.
In a response filed by Geohegan, he said he has seen no bias on behalf of LMPD and “has never had any pressure from anyone in regard to this case.” He called the conflict of interest claims “not only totally false, but outrageously laughable considering who is making them,” according to the motion.
However, Geoghegan told Eckerle he had to recuse himself from prosecuting Yates and has requested the attorney general appoint a new prosecutor because of a conflict of interest. Geohegan said an employee in his office is related to an attorney who represents the alleged victim in potential civil litigation against Yates.
The Jefferson County grand jury was supposed to hear the case against Yates on Monday, but Eckerle delayed the proceeding on Monday so she could hear arguments Wednesday. Yates' attorneys had brought former Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel in to testify.
Now that Geohegan has removed himself, the case will be on hold until another prosecutor is appointed and decides whether to pursue the case.
Yates’ attorneys had claimed LMPD was pushing Geohegan in “an attempt at retribution” because of the lawsuits.
In the motion on Monday, attorneys for Yates asked the judge to prevent Geoghegan from presenting a felony assault case against Yates stemming from an incident at a University of Louisville football game in November 2016.
A grand jury in June chose not to indict Yates in the case, but because it is a felony, there is no statute of limitations, and prosecutors and police can bring the case back up.
The motion claimed there is no new evidence against Yates and that Geoghegan had been pressured by "elements of the Louisville Metro Police Department."
Geohegan wrote in his response that he “alone” decided to again present the case to a grand jury “based on incidents surrounding the earlier Grand Jury presentation.”
It is unclear what incidents Geohegan was referring to. But Geohegan goes on to say in his response that "it should be the policy of any prosecutorial office to recommend an investigation into any anomalies or irregularities involving the Judicial Process, including the Grand Jury process, if any is suspected."
The response goes into some detail about the incident, saying a witness told police Yates attacked the alleged victim “from behind,” hitting him in the back of the head and side repeatedly, fracturing a bone in the man’s face.
Attorneys Ryan Vantrease and Todd Lewis, who represent Yates, told reporters they stand behind their motion and said LMPD has a conflict of interest that will have to be addressed if another prosecutor decides to move forward with the case.
“Anyone sensible will not have this case go forward,” Lewis said.
Yates' attorneys have suggested the case be turned over to the attorney general or Kentucky State Police.
Yates has been under investigation by the Louisville Metro Police Department since he got into an altercation with another man at the Nov. 12, 2016, Wake Forest game.
The grand jury issued a "no true bill" on one count of second-degree assault, meaning the jurors did not find enough evidence to indict Yates.
In an interview after the grand jury's decision, Yates said the man was "harassing" his girlfriend and "physically threatened" them in a stairwell at the game, throwing a drink at the couple. The man had assaulted Yates' girlfriend previously, he said.
"I had to defend myself and my girlfriend," Yates said. "I acted appropriately."
Yates said he struck the man in the face, and the man hit the ground.
"This is a clear case of self-defense," he said. Yates said the man had broken bones in his face as a result of the incident.
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