A Hardin County (Elizabethtown) prosecutor was suspended Monday after a local defense attorney produced a videotape showing him having sex with a defendant who had agreed to testify in a drug case as part of a plea bargain. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Stevens now faces investigations by the state attorney general's office and the Kentucky Bar Association into his relations with defendant Erica French, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
According to French's lawyer, Kenneth Daniels, who informed authorities of the videotape's existence Monday, French had complained that Stevens made inappropriate advances to her during talks about her testifying against other defendants. French said that Stevens told her he could and would withdraw her guilty plea and drop drug charges against her if she had sex with him. When Stevens told French he needed to come to her house to discuss the cases, French and Daniels decided to record the encounter, Daniels said.
French made the 5½-hour tape last Wednesday beginning at 9:00am, after Stevens came to her home on the pretext that he needed to watch videos relevant to the cases in which French was supposed to be a state's witness. And then they got it on. Daniels said he revealed the tape's existence to Stevens the next day. Stevens offered to use his influence to get the charges against French dropped if Daniels kept the tape secret, Daniels said.
But Daniels said his conscience would not allow that. Instead, Monday morning he reported what he knew to the court and the state bar association. He did not turn over copies of the tape, but did show enough of it to a Courier-Journal reporter to convince the newspaper it was for real.
Daniels said that he had advised French not to have sex with Stevens, and that even if all he did was proposition her or touch her, that would be evidence of misconduct on Stevens' part. "It surprised me quite a bit, but I treat adults as adults," Daniels told the Courier-Journal. "I had advised her against having sex."
Commonwealth's Attorney Christopher G. Shaw, Stevens' supervisor, said he suspended Stevens after a Monday meeting. Shaw declined to discuss specifics, citing ongoing investigations, but said he learned enough to suspend Stevens. "I did gain enough information that I felt I needed to put him on leave," Shaw said.
French had pleaded guilty April 8 to five drug charges involving marijuana and possession of ingredients needed to make methamphetamine. The plea agreement required her to testify against codefendants Billie Joe Strader and Earl Wieman in a case being prosecuted by Stevens.
Daniels will seek to undo the plea agreement and have the charges against French dismissed, he said. Steven's behavior had "tainted" the case, Daniels said.
Commonwealth Attorney Shaw told the Courier-Journal part of the reason French was offered a plea bargain was that she had no criminal record. Or was it because she was a hotter babe than Billie Joe or Earl?