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Charles Lindsey

In BG visit, federal prosecutor talks drug prevention efforts
 Justin Story  / 

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman prosecutes federal crimes across a 53-county swath of the state that includes Warren and its neighboring counties.

To be able to do that, Coleman calls on the cooperation of local law enforcement agencies.

As the guest speaker for the Bowling Green Rotary Club’s weekly meeting Wednesday, Coleman tried to persuade attendees to help with his efforts, encouraging the community leaders there to find ways to communicate with local youth about preventing drug use.

“We exist in an environment now where we just have no margin of error,” Coleman said during Wednesday’s Rotary meeting at Bowling Green Country Club. “The risk is so significant, we have to start having these conversations and start thinking about how we talk to kids.”

Coleman was appointed as the top prosecutor for the Western District of Kentucky in 2017, overseeing an office of about 40 career prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is based in Louisville and is part of a federal judicial district in which criminal and civil cases are heard in courthouses in Louisville, Bowling Green, Owensboro and Paducah.

When he assumed office, Coleman said he communicated with law enforcement throughout the district that his priority early in his term was to reduce violent crime and gang activity in Louisville.

Several officers expressed support, Coleman said, letting him know that Louisville has lately become a source of supply for western Kentucky for illegal drugs and the violence associated with the drug trade.

Of those illegal drugs, methamphetamine is the most prolific in the state, and the drug is almost exclusively coming here from superlabs in Mexico that produce a stimulant high in purity, Coleman said.

Facing the challenges related to illegal drugs will require cooperation among multiple branches of local, state and federal law enforcement, Coleman said.

“We’re underwater with drugs produced elsewhere, so we could do a better job partnering with other law enforcement to push back and try to take out those drug trafficking organizations,” Coleman said. “What we’re trying to do is take out the worst of the worst, the trigger-puller, the drug trafficker, out of southcentral Kentucky for decades.”

A native of Logan County, Coleman said he wants to shore up the federal law enforcement presence beyond his Louisville office.

He has added full-time federal prosecutors in Paducah and hopes to do the same soon for Bowling Green, saying Wednesday that “it’s just the right thing to do” and he is waiting on approval from appropriations committees in the House and Senate to do so.

Currently, a few federal prosecutors travel from Louisville to handle federal criminal cases in Bowling Green.

“I want folks to serve as federal prosecutors in this community who are of this community, that understand this community and have preexisting relationships,” Coleman said.

Butler double murder trial postponed
 Justin Story  / 

MORGANTOWN – The jury trial for a Butler County man accused in a double homicide has been postponed and will be reset for a later date after his lead attorney reported experiencing health issues.

Charles “Cotton” Lindsey, 36, of Roundhill, was set to go to trial Jan. 7 in Butler Circuit Court on two counts of murder, first-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence.

Lindsey is accused of killing Cory Hampton, 28, and Britany Tomes, 17, whose bodies were found Nov. 9, 2016, on Region-Reedyville Road in a burning Ford Crown Victoria registered to Hampton.

Butler County Commonwealth’s Attorney Blake Chambers has filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

At a hearing Wednesday before Special Judge John Grise, attorney Joanne Lynch, who leads Lindsey’s defense team, said she has had an issue with her health arise within the last two weeks that required her to undergo testing.

Additional tests have been scheduled, with a possibility that Lynch would have to undergo surgery before the end of the year.

Lynch did not elaborate on the nature of her medical issue in Wednesday’s hearing, saying she consulted with Lindsey and Chambers about it prior to filing a motion to continue the trial.

“I informed (Lindsey) of the situation, and he very graciously said essentially to take care of my health,” Lynch said.

Grise postponed the trial, and a new date will be set at a hearing Jan. 7.

A pending motion from Lynch challenging the constitutionality of Kentucky’s death penalty was not addressed Wednesday.

Lindsey is one of four co-defendants who was charged in the case, and he is the only one to maintain his not guilty plea.

Arlexis Kawai, Kayla Ford and Helen Rone all pleaded guilty to first-degree hindering apprehension/prosecution and tampering with physical evidence.

According to prior testimony, those three drove to Region-Reedyville Road on the day of the homicides and picked up Lindsey from the scene.

When the group stopped at a nearby convenience store, Lindsey was alleged to have confessed his involvement in the double homicide to Kawai.

Ford testified in May that she knew Lindsey to be involved in selling methamphetamine and had previously supplied Hampton with drugs.

When Rone, who is Lindsey’s sister, pleaded guilty in May, she testified that she and Kawai traveled to Tennessee to bring clothes and food to Lindsey and Ford in the days after the double homicide.

Kawai is serving a six-year sentence, while Ford and Rone were placed on probation.

Evidence grows for needed rehab of Kentucky dams
 Caroline Eggers  / 

From small, soil embankments to towering concrete buttresses, dams support flood control, water supply, irrigation, storage, hydropower and recreation. They’re built to hold water.

But dams can fail, unleashing floods upon people, wildlife and even entire communities – and that possibility is growing as decades-old infrastructure erodes without maintenance, according to an Associated Press investigation published Monday.

Across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, there are at least 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition. It’s likely a conservative estimate, as some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, and other states didn’t rate all of their dams due to a lack of funding, staff or the authority to do so, according to the AP.

Kentucky has dozens of these potentially life-threatening dams. Within the Barren River region, there was only one – the Mill Creek Mps No. 4 dam in Monroe County – listed as “high-hazard,” which is defined as having the potential for loss of life and significant property destruction if the dam should fail. This dam was constructed in 1972 and was last inspected Sept. 27, 2017, according to the AP.

Yet despite the risks, there hasn’t been a statewide or national level of concern raised to address the aging infrastructure.

“There is no constituency saying that this is something we need to fix right now,” said Ward Wilson, executive director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance. “There’s not a real urgency, until one fails.”

The Army Corps of Engineers began inventorying dams after Congress passed the National Dam Inspection Act in 1972. Starting this year, USACE will annually update the National Inventory of Dams, which currently lists about 90,000 dams nationwide.

This inventory includes dams meeting at least one of its following criteria: high-hazard potential classification, significant-hazard potential classification dams, whose failure would cause significant property destruction; equal or exceed 25 feet in height and exceed 15 acre-feet in storage; or equal or exceed 50 acre-feet storage and exceed 6 feet in height.

Kentucky has 1,089 NID dams, of which 271 were classified as high-hazard potential dams. From Kentucky’s 954 state-regulated dams, 179 were identified with high-hazard potential and another 132 were identified with significant-hazard potential, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of high-hazard dams because of areas downstream of the dams being developed, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2019 Kentucky Infrastructure Report Card, which graded Kentucky’s dam infrastructure with a D+.

Heavy rainfall events, which are becoming more common and intense in many parts of the country due to climate change, have been identified as one of the most common issues for aging dams. If water can’t escape through spillways fast enough, it could flow over the dam and increase the probability of rapid erosion and an eventual collapse, according to the AP.

Beyond threatening people and property, dam failure threatens the health of the adjacent river ecosystem.

“If dams fail during a rain event, it would put a lot of sediment in the stream,” Wilson said.

In the Kentucky Division of Water’s 2018 report, 80 of the state’s “high hazard” dams were also considered in “poor condition.”

In Hopkins County, the Loch Mary Reservoir Dam is getting fixed up following a violation from the state’s dam regulatory body, the Kentucky Division of Water, which has issued just 56 violations in the past 10 years, according to an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

With about $400,000 in dedicated dam safety funding, Kentucky lacks the dollars needed to rehabilitate high-hazard dams, improve emergency preparedness, increase education of dam safety for owners and the public, update inspection methods and equipment, or hire the staff needed for regulatory condition inspections, according to ASCE.

This cycle begs the question of whether it’s worth pouring money into rehabilitating the often outdated structures – or it’s worth removing them, according to Wilson.

“Do we need all of these things that we built 50 or more years ago? Maybe we need to take more of them out of service,” Wilson said. “If we’re going to maintain them, we need money. But maybe the money is better spent taking them out.

“Dams change the hydrology of a stream. And in bigger dams, they’ve had a detrimental effect on mussel species.”

In 2017, Mammoth Cave National Park, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky Waterways Alliance partnered to remove Lock and Dam No. 6 from the Green River following its partial failure, after which there were no reported injuries or property damages. This affected the river level and should eventually improve the overall health of the river ecosystem, park officials have previously said.

There are plans to remove both Lock and Dam Nos. 3 and 5 from the biologically diverse river in the next year or so.

Bac Totrong / Bac Totrong/photo@bgdailynews.com  

Green River Lock and Dam No. 6 in Mammoth Cave National Park was removed in 2017 after its partial failure.

Beshear set for ‘next chapter’ as Bevin concedes

FRANKFORT — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin conceded to Democratic archnemesis Andy Beshear on Thursday, putting an end to Kentucky’s bitterly fought governor’s race and setting the stage for divided government in a GOP stronghold.

Bevin, an ally of President Donald Trump, made the dramatic announcement outside his statehouse office on the same day election officials across Kentucky double-checked vote totals at the governor’s request. Bevin, trailing by several thousand votes, acknowledged the recanvass wouldn’t change the outcome.

“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people,” Bevin said at the news conference.

Promising Kentuckians that “we won’t let you down,” Beshear said later in the day that he’s ready to help build the “next chapter” of Kentucky’s future.

Looking ahead to dealing with a GOP-led legislature, the governor-elect urged policymakers to find common ground and to “civilly disagree” when they can’t.

“If we can work together on the areas that we agree on and we can cut down on the rhetoric in the areas that we don’t, there is a significant amount that we can get done,” he said. “I believe that the areas that are so important for Kentucky, for instance the health and the education of our people, aren’t partisan at all.”

It was a subdued scene as members of Bevin’s administration watched the pugnacious governor graciously wish Beshear — the state’s attorney general — well in his new role.

His concession capped a nearly four-year rivalry that dominated Kentucky politics. Beshear, wielding his authority as the state’s top lawyer, challenged a series of Bevin’s executive actions during their terms. Their feud spread to the campaign trail and a series of bare-knuckled debates this year.

“I truly want the best for Andy Beshear as he moves forward. I genuinely want him to be successful, I genuinely want this state to be successful,” Bevin said.

Beshear thanked Bevin for promising a smooth transition.

Last week’s election results showed Bevin trailing Beshear by more than 5,000 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast, for a lead of less than 0.4 percentage points. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement that Thursday’s recanvass of vote counts left the final margin at 5,136 votes. The State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet Nov. 21 to certify the vote totals.

Calling for unity after the divisive campaign, Beshear said Kentuckians share more in common — regardless of party affiliation — than “any national divisions can ever pull us apart.” He appeared at the press conference with his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman.

“Whether you voted for us or not, we are here to serve you,” Beshear said at a press conference at the Kentucky Education Association headquarters. “We’ll work every single day to earn your faith, to earn your trust.”

Bevin vowed not to publicly undermine or second-guess Beshear’s actions once his rival becomes governor.

“I am sure there will be things I’m excited by and have complete agreement with, and there will be things that I will probably be on the other side of the equation with, and this is the way things are,” Bevin said.

In the days after the Nov. 5 election, Bevin had steadfastly refused to concede while hinting, without offering evidence, that there had been “irregularities” in the voting.

Bevin, however, faced a growing chorus of state Republicans urging him to accept the results of the recanvass unless he could point to evidence of substantial voter fraud.

Beshear said Thursday that the election was “fair and clean.”

Beshear, the son of a former two-term Kentucky governor, had already declared victory and has been preparing to become governor in December.

The Kentucky contest was watched closely for early signs of how the impeachment furor in Washington might affect Trump and other Republicans heading into the 2020 election. Bevin railed against the impeachment inquiry and illegal immigration in trying to nationalize the race, while Beshear kept his focus on state issues such as education, health care and pensions.

Beshear’s upset win gives Democrats a victory in a state that had been trending heavily toward Republican in recent years.

Beshear followed a disciplined campaign style focused on what he termed “kitchen table” issues while capitalizing on Bevin’s penchant for making enemies of teachers and other groups. The new governor-elect avoided talking about Trump, impeachment or other polarizing national issues that risked energizing his opponent’s conservative base.

Trump loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president in TV ads, tweets and speeches. Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide in winning the presidency in 2016 and remains popular in the state. The president took center stage in the campaign with his election-eve rally in Lexington, the state’s second-largest city, to energize his supporters to head to the polls for his fellow Republican.

But the combative Bevin was unable to overcome a series of self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state’s woefully underfunded public pension systems. Beshear effectively exploited the feud, branding Bevin as a bully.