Inside information into the years-long child sex abuse saga involving Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) officers was not at all easy to obtain and now we know why. The department hid 738,000 records documenting the sexual abuse of Explorer Scouts by officers — and then, according to records requested by the Courier Journal, lied to keep the files from the public.
According to the Journal, last year, the newspaper requested all records regarding the sexual abuse of minors by LMPD officers involved in the Explorer program, a program for children who are interested in becoming cops. However, police claimed that they couldn't turn over the records, telling the Journal that they had already been turned over to the FBI.
"LMPD does not have possession or control of the records," LMPD records custodian Alicia Smiley wrote in a Sept. 3, 2019, letter to Assistant Attorney General Marcus Jones. "When the investigation was taken by the FBI, all copies of the investigative materials … were physically removed from the premises, digital devices and servers of LMPD."
But that was a lie, the LMPD had hundreds of thousands of records on child sexual abuse by officers in the Explorer program.
According to the Journal, the department still had at least 738,000 records, which the city allowed to be deleted.
The records detail the actions taken — or rather not taken — when the department learned about the sexual abuse of children in the program.
"I have practiced open records law since the law was enacted 45 years ago, and I have never seen anything so brazen," said Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Courier Journal. "I think it an outrage."
Another lawyer for The Courier Journal, Michael Abate, said the city’s conduct was especially egregious given the case involves the sexual abuse of children by police officers and the department’s failure to prevent it.
Metro Council President David James said Wednesday, according to the Journal, that "it’s very disturbing to me that either the county attorney’s office or the police department was so dead-set on making sure those records never reached the public.”
Councilman Anthony Piagentini, R-19th, said, "There aren’t the appropriate words to describe how indefensible this is. The administration oversaw the sexual exploitation of minors and then deleted evidence."
Jean Porter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, said his "focus is getting to the truth in this horrific case."
"Issues of ownership for records in an investigation led by a federal task force are not as clear as your newspaper would suggest," she said in a statement. "The mayor is awaiting the independent review being conducted for the Jefferson County Attorney’s office before deciding next steps, and he remains committed to releasing all documents that the law allows."
When confronted about being caught in a lie, the department and the city issued a statement "amending previous factual statements made in error.” But attorneys for the paper are not buying it.
"The law requires them to truthfully tell us what records they have in their possession," Fleischaker said. "The law requires them to maintain the integrity of the documents. What they did is quite the opposite. That is a violation of the open records law and potentially a violation of the law of tampering with evidence."
"They intentionally put them out of reach," Abate added.
While the Courier's case deals with just two officers, TFTP has reported on multiple officers involved in the disgusting allegations.
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As we reported last year, the city commissioned former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey to investigate the LMPD Explorers program for children to determine if sexual misconduct, abuse, and even rape were widespread with police officers involved in the program.
Hardly an isolated incident, in total, a series of seven lawsuits names more than eight current or former LMPD officers.
In a disturbing description to FOX News , one of the victims went into graphic detail on how he was abused and raped by people he looked up to.
"C.F.," who uses a pseudonym to protect his identity in a civil lawsuit, said that what should have been a golden opportunity to learn about law enforcement became a nightmare of exploitation and sexual abuse.
The two former LMPD officers in the Courier's investigation have already been convicted of serious crimes, as The Free Thought Project reported, and the city, with good reason, wanted to know more about how police handled the complaints from parents and reports children were being groomed, propositioned, and even raped.
As TFTP reported in October 2017:
Brandon Wood...allegedly raped a teenage boy, both in [his] car and in a residence, and filmed the crime for the purposes of producing pornography. [Kenneth] Betts and Wood were police officer mentors in the Youth Explorer Program for kids who want to one day become law enforcement officers. It was inside the mentorship program that they are accused of finding their victims.
Wood pleaded guilty to a federal attempted enticement charges and was sentenced May 28, 2019 to 70 months in prison. Betts pleaded guilty to federal enticement and and child pornography charges and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his crimes.
It is important to point out that none of these charges would have happened had the victims not sought out lawsuits as the department had no interest in pursuing their own—allowing this abuse to go on for years.
The original accusations were followed by lawsuits with one lawyer reportedly representing five victims abused by officers inside the Explorers program. Now, that number has jumped to 15 victims.
Not only did parents accuse the police officers' superiors of doing nothing about their criminal complaints, the Police Officers' union also began to stonewall, filing a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent investigators from interviewing more cops. As TFTP reported:
Just as the investigation into alleged sex scandals involving teenage explorers and Louisville police officers was progressing, the police union stepped in and filed a lawsuit to prevent at least three other officers from testifying in the case. The River City Fraternal Order of Police (RCFOP) filed a lawsuit mid-August to prevent the officers from incriminating themselves in the involuntary interviews with a private attorney hired at the request of the mayor’s office. Officers Matthew Gelhausen, Joseff Keeling and Paul Paris were protected from being forced to give a deposition to the lawyer as a result of the lawsuit filed by their union.
Harvey was paid $140,000 to compile the report and released his findings, which took a year to complete. His team concluded that was there were indeed mistakes made in handling the criminal complaints. According to the Courier's investigation, these mistakes may have been on purpose.
According to Harvey's report, "Our inability to interview active-duty officers has, however, limited our access to material witnesses." Harvey and his team were asked by the FBI to, in essence, stay out of its way and not interfere in the ongoing federal investigation into sex abuse crimes within the Explorers program at LMPD. It is unclear how far along the FBI's investigation is in bringing federal sex abuse crimes, if any, against both past and current officers. Harvey also stated that a number of additional factors limited his investigation.
First, he was not given access to the items seized by the LMPD's "Public Integrity Unit" when it conducted search warrants and seizures of items such as cell phones, social media accounts, and items taken from homes and vehicles. Harvey's report also stated that since the team did not have subpoena power, no one they contacted was compelled by law to cooperate. As a result, Harvey's subsequent investigation focused almost exclusively on Wood and Betts, two former LMPD officers who have both since been convicted for abusing multiple children.
The lawsuits against the other officers as well as the criminal investigations are all still pending.