LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Shepherdsville Mayor Scott Ellis admitted in a video confession that he used his elected position to get sexual favors from a woman on parole, according to evidence released Wednesday in a criminal case that was dismissed in Bullitt County.
The evidence includes hundreds of lurid Facebook messages investigators say were sent between the two, 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 October 2014, Ellis wrote to the woman, “What I meant by you need something and I need something. (sic) Is you needed money for your phone and I needed a bj or sex.”
In another message, from Nov. 18, 2014, the woman asked Ellis if he had “done everything that needs to be done” to obtain a pardon for her from a drug conviction.
“I have called several times actually. Told him who you were (sic) they pull your file and review it to see how to handle it,” Ellis replied. Beshear issued no pardons until 2015, and the woman’s name was not among the 201 people pardoned last December.
In addition, the mayor allegedly told a Shepherdsville police officer that while he didn’t have sex with the woman, oral sex "might be another story."
The lead investigator in the case wrote that the oral sex took place in the mayor’s office.
Despite the confession and other evidence, special prosecutor Mark Shouse had the indictment for solicitation of prostitution against the mayor dismissed in November, saying the evidence did not fit the charge. Shouse, a Hardin County assistant prosecutor, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
The video of Ellis allegedly confessing was not included among thousands of documents, pictures, text messages and other evidence obtained from the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.
The sheriff's office told WDRB that another agency has the video and is conducting a separate investigation. Officials would not identify the agency, but Lt. Col. Dan Patchin of the Shepherdsville Police Department wrote in a report included in the evidence 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 the initial lead investigator, former sheriff’s detective Lynn 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 summarizing her investigation, Hunt wrote that Ellis received oral sex in his office from a woman on parole in exchange for “promises of money, clothing, apartments, and pardons,” according to a search warrant affidavit. The woman’s name is redacted from the records.
Given the evidence in the case, Hunt wrote that Ellis could be charged with 1st degree official misconduct, solicitation to prostitution and abuse of public trust. The mayor was only indicted on a charge of solicitation to prostitution.
Ellis staunchly maintains his innocence. He told WDRB on Wednesday he didn’t “recognize” the Facebook messages.
“I don’t have anything to say; this is the first time I’ve seen them,” he said. “I don’t recognize them.”
Asked if he was planning to resign, Ellis said “absolutely not. I have no reason to.”
“We have a lot of great things going on in this community right now,” he said outside his office. “And we need to keep the positive light going in this community, not the negative.”
Ellis also said, "this case is behind us, let’s move forward. We’ve moved past this, as you guys need to do."
In a search warrant affidavit, Hunt wrote that in December 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 December 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.
At first, in a Feb. 9, 2015, video interview, Ellis “was untruthful regarding any sexual contact,” Hunt wrote. But he later confessed after he was shown a report from the Attorney General’s office. That report was not in the evidence released Wednesday.
Messages between the woman and Ellis included nude photos. The sheriff’s department said “there is no indication that any of the personal photos are that of Scott Ellis.”
In one Facebook message, from October 2014, the woman said she was unable to pay her parole supervision fee that month and asked Ellis if he could help.
He replied, “I don’t know. I’ll have to check my finances.”
Ellis went on to write, “We haven’t had any trade offs the last two times,” according to the messages.
“I know I’m sorry,” the woman replied.
“How about we try to do something on your lunch break?” the woman asked.
Ellis said he didn’t know when he would be able to take a lunch break.
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.
Shepherdsville Police Officer Todd Johnson wrote in a memo from April 2015 that the mayor told him he met the woman in a drug court program and he had sent her some “raunchy” messages, but never offered to help her and “nothing ever happened between them.”
Ellis also said the sheriff’s department had told him they would have to charge him with something and “he was planning on pleading guilty just to get it over with,” Johnson wrote.
In a conversation the next day, Ellis allegedly told Johnson the sheriff’s department had told him they were not going to charge him with anything. But a week later, according to Johnson, Ellis said the department was going to charge him because “sexual allegations” were being made. The mayor said his wife would divorce him if she found out and “his family was going to disown him and be embarrassed,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said the mayor told him, while laughing, that he didn’t have sex with the woman but oral sex “might be another story.”
“I purposefully directed our conversation to another topic, not wanting to hear anything (about) this incident,” Johnson wrote.
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.
“She makes a lot of allegations. We’re not going to discuss it,” Ellis said Wednesday. “Have a wonderful day.”
Shouse, the prosecutor, told WDRB in a past interview that he read each Facebook message in the case and did not believe the evidence supported the prostitution charge.
Shouse has said it is not likely the charge would be re-filed against Ellis.
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