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FRANKFORT, Ky. (September 21, 2015) – Auditor Adam Edelen on Monday announced there are 3,090 untested sexual assault evidence kits in the Commonwealth and pledged to help fix a broken system that denies victims justice, jeopardizes public safety and clogs up the criminal justice system.
“The results of this initiative are stomach-turning,” Auditor Edelen said. “When a victim has the courage to undergo an invasive and traumatizing exam after an assault, he or she deserves to have the evidence in that sexual assault kit analyzed. One of government’s fundamental responsibilities is to bring these rapists to justice.”
The report contains 10 observations that describe breakdowns at every step of the process, from the time a victim presents to a hospital to undergo an exam, to the failure of law enforcement to submit kits for testing and long delays at the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Forensic Laboratory to analyze the evidence.
Senate Joint Resolution 20, passed during the 2015 General Assembly, called on the Auditor’s office to count the number of untested sexual assault kits in Kentucky.Auditor Edelen decided to expand the scope and examine the underlying reasons why these kits were not tested.
“As the sponsor of SJR 20, I am pleased Auditor Edelen not only indentified the number of untested sexual assault kits in Kentucky, he also dug deeper into this crisis and has presented the Legislature with common-sense solutions to bring justice to survivors,” Sen. Denise Harper Angel said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties next year to make these reforms a reality.”
The Auditor’s office surveyed 391 law enforcement agencies in Kentucky, conducted interviews and held 14 meetings across the Commonwealth to hear from stakeholders such as law enforcement, victims’ advocates, prosecutors, nurses and more.
Auditors identified 1,859 untested sexual assault kits in the possession of 87 police departments and sheriffs’ offices and another 1,231 untested kits at the KSP Forensic Laboratory. Louisville Metro Police Department, Lexington Police Department and Newport Police Department had the most untested kits. It has been estimated that there may be 400,000 untested sexual assault kits nationally.
The untested kits in Kentucky will be analyzed as part of a $1.9 million grant Kentucky State Police received from the Manhattan (NYC) District Attorney’s Office.
“The net effect is that there are a number of perpetrators who will be brought to justice as a result of these efforts,” Auditor Edelen said. “But if we don’t get to the bottom of why the kits were not tested in the first place, we are going to be right back here five years from now counting kits all over again. I am determined to not let that happen in the Commonwealth.”
To that end, the Auditor’s office found a number of problems that have led to fewer kits being submitted to the KSP Forensic Laboratory and tested in a timely manner.
Approximately 41 percent of law enforcement agencies reported that they do not submit all kits for analysis, and most agencies reported that they lack clear policies for handling sexual assault kits. Some of the reasons law enforcement reported for not submitting kits indicate a lack of understanding of the multiple purposes of analyzing kits. Eleven percent of law enforcement, for example, indicated they don’t submit a kit if they don’t have a suspect. This ignores the fact that the national DNA database, known as CODIS, could help them identify one.
Sexual assault survivor Michelle Kuiper, who assisted the Auditor’s office on the initiative, said every survivor deserves to have their kit tested to receive justice and closure.
“The survivors of these heinous crimes agree to give up their bodies to be examined so that any evidence can be collected and they can help put their perpetrators behind bars,” she said.
Auditor Edelen recommends law enforcement be required to submit nearly all sexual assault kits for analysis within 10 days of booking them into evidence and that the Forensic Laboratory be required to test those kits within 90 days of receipt. He also recommends more training for law enforcement and that law enforcement be required to adopt policies for dealing with sexual assaults.
“I was heartened to hear near-unanimous sentiment from law enforcement that they would prefer to submit all kits, and that many of them were already beginning to update their policies to help improve their handling of sexual assault investigations,” Auditor Edelen said.
Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police President and Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue, Jr. said law enforcement is committed to doing its part to fix the system and bring more perpetrators to justice.
“Our number one priority is to make our streets safer and apprehend those who commit violent crimes,” he said.
Auditors found that long turnaround times to analyze sexual assault evidence, as well as confusing communications from the Forensic Laboratory, also contribute to fewer kits submitted and tested. The average turnaround time to analyze sexual assault evidence submitted in 2014 is currently eight months and data indicates the turnaround time is increasing.
One prosecutor, for example, shared a case in which a woman was drugged and raped and could not identify her rapists. The analysis matched the profiles of three men who remained in the community for eight months while the kit was awaiting analysis.
“Many of these rapists are walking the streets while the evidence needed to put them behind bars collects dust,” Auditor Edelen said. “When a neighboring state can turnaround this same evidence in less than 20 days, we can and must do better.”
Auditors found that limited resources, state budget cuts and recruitment and retention issues at the forensic laboratories are significant factors contributing to the long turnaround times. Auditor Edelen recommends that the Forensic Laboratory take steps to become more efficient and that the Legislature increase funding at the Laboratory.
“Investment is a precondition for improving the system,” Auditor Edelen said. “In the digital age, no elected official can claim the mantle of ‘tough on crime’ without adequately funding the state crime lab.”
During the initiative, the Auditor’s office heard concerns that there are not enough Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) in Kentucky, resulting in troubling experiences for victims at some hospitals. Kentucky has 249 certified SANE nurses, but advocates say many of them are not currently practicing.
“I’m deeply concerned about the untested kits, but I’m equally worried about the evidence that is never collected because victims are not treated with compassion and respect in their darkest hours,” Auditor Edelen said.
The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP), which serves as the umbrella organization of the state’s 14 regional rape crisis centers, applauded the report’s observations.
“When nearly half of Kentucky women experience sexual violence, yet 98 percent of rapists walk free, we need to take a hard look at our justice system and make changes,” KASAP Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald said. “Auditor Edelen has taken a huge step today in that direction by addressing the rape kit backlog. The recommendations will change the landscape for victims in Kentucky.”
Auditor Edelen said he plans to work with legislators and other stakeholders to make it easier to bring peace to victims and justice to rapists.
“The challenges outlined in this report are dwarfed by the commitment to justice from victims and their advocates, and from law enforcement and prosecutors,” Auditor Edelen said. “We will reform and rebuild this system to demonstrate that victims matter.”
SEPTEMBER 19, 2015
FRANKFORT -- Rep. John Short, D-Mallie, is urging people in Kentucky’s 92nd House District and throughout the state to observe Sept. 26 as Kentucky’s Hunting and Fishing Day.
Sept. 26 was designated as Hunting and Fishing Day throughout the state in a proclamation recently issued by Gov. Steve Beshear.
“From its earliest days, Kentucky has been known as a land of plenty,” Rep. Short said. “Hunting and fishing are part of our heritage and culture. These pursuits give people a strong connection to our land and provide a family activity that teaches responsibility, conservation and appreciation for all the gifts nature provides.”
Hunting and fishing also gives a healthy boost to the state’s economy. More than $1.9 billion are invested in the state’s economy by Kentucky’s roughly 713,000 hunters and anglers while engaged in their pursuits.
The governor’s proclamation noted that sportsmen and women “were among the first conservationists to support the establishment of the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to conserve fish, wildlife and their habitat, and through their license feed s helped fund state efforts to provide for healthy and sustainable natural resources.”
Rep. Short represents Kentucky’s 92nd House district in Knott and Magoffin counties, as well as a portion of Pike County.
Human trafficking and first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor under 16, illegal sexual activity, are two of 22 charges handed down Tuesday against Jonathan W. Diaz, 19, of 230 Laffoon Drive, in an indictment by a Franklin County grand jury.
Both are Class B felonies.
“He was prostituting out juvenile females,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Zachary Becker. “Specifically, there was a 15-year old Franklin County resident who was employed by Mr. Diaz on July 18 to show up at the Capital Plaza Hotel with the understanding she would engage in sexual activity with two males in exchange for Mr. Diaz receiving $900.
“Unfortunately for Mr. Diaz those two males were an undercover police officer and a confidential witness.”
Becker said the undercover officer was provided by the Georgetown Police Department “as part of a back-up plan between law enforcement agencies to assist one another in criminal investigations.
“There was recording equipment in the room and as soon as the money was exchanged and Mr. Diaz left the room, he was arrested and the female was taken into protective custody.”
The phones of Diaz and the victim were confiscated, Becker said, and search warrants were obtained and executed by the cyber crimes branch of the state attorney general’s office.
“As a result, hundreds of pages of Facebook messages were found between Mr. Diaz and numerous juvenile females, specifically the victim who showed up at the hotel as well as another juvenile female.
“Subjects of those messages included details of posed sexual activity, prices for different sexual acts, and making understood these girls would earn even more money if they agreed to have sex with older men.
“Also, on the phones were details of the transaction that night — Mr. Diaz requesting that two 15-year-old juveniles send him naked pictures and even going so far as to detail how he wanted them to pose so as to present a better photograph.”
Diaz distributed those photos, which were found on his phone, Becker said.
“One of the 15-year-old juveniles also stated she was unfortunately subjected to intercourse in February of this year.”
Becker said Diaz made statements on the undercover recording that he had upwards of eight females employed by him.
“It’s not known at this time whether or not he was simply boasting,” Becker said. “I know law enforcement has made every effort to track down as many females as possible who were involved and contacted by Mr. Diaz.
“If there are any other juvenile females involved, or parents who suspect as much, we ask that they contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office or their closest law enforcement agency.
Diaz was arrested July 18 and is being held in the Franklin County Regional Jail.
Leading the investigation was Detective Jeff Farmer with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
Becker said Diaz’s jail phone calls were being monitored by the sheriff’s office, and while speaking with his sister, made a statement contained in a police report that said, “I don’t even have a victim. I didn’t have sex with no female. I just sold her, and I’m being treated like a rapist.”
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is indebted to the Georgetown Police Department for its cooperation in providing an undercover officer, “who was in the room so the juvenile female was protected,” Becker said.
In the indictment, Diaz also is charged with:
• Two counts of unlawful use of electronic means originating or received within the Commonwealth of Kentucky to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities, on July 8 and 16, each a Class D felony.
• Two counts of promoting a sexual performance by a minor victim under 16 years of age, July 11 and 13, each a Class B felony.
• Eight counts of possessing/viewing matter portraying sexual performance by a minor, on July 11, each a Class D felony.
• Eight counts of distribution of matter portraying sexual performance by a minor, first offense, on July 13, each a Class D felony.
By Glenn Mollette
Exit polls are conclusive. 100% of us will die. The way we die will vary somewhat, but die we will. Many people in the world will never vote, own a new house, drive a new car or eat in a nice restaurant. We all will experience death.
My father-in-law passed suddenly last week. On a routine Thursday morning he was taking my mother-in-law for a typical medical appointment and apparently had a heart attack while behind the wheel. He managed to pull off to the side of the road before he gasped and left the world with his wife in the passenger seat. The trauma of receiving a call from a stranger stating he was not responsive nor could a heart beat be found was very unexpected. He essentially did most of the same stuff we all did and we often estimated he had another twenty years. Again, it was proven there are never any guarantees when it comes to additional time on this planet.
I don't know how we totally prepare for death. Being at peace with God and man would be at the forefront. This is surely a day by day activity because we all have days where we certainly are not pleasing our creator 100%. We go through life fretting, miffed at people, thinking bad thoughts and sometimes even doing the wrong things. We fall out with people or people fall out with us and often these relationships only go further south and they are never repaired before death. As hard as it is to believe, nobody ever had a bad thing to say about my father-in-law. He never had anything bad to say about anybody. I asked one of the clerks at a small store in town if we could think of anything bad about him and we both agreed it would be impossible. I realize no one is perfect but it's nice when everyone speaks so highly of you. They didn't even do that about Jesus.
You also need to either pay for your funeral costs before you die, have insurance or have some cash set aside for your family. A moderate funeral including grave, marker, casket, etc could easily cost you $15,000. I said moderate. I suspect you could easily bump this up to $18,000 and of course you can always go higher or more extravagant. I am also including the cost of placing an obituary in our regional paper. Can you believe it cost our family over $600 for an obituary???!!! This was one newspaper! No, newspapers do not run obituaries for free! There are all kinds of little hidden expenses when it comes to funerals. Be forewarned my friend and be prepared. Last weekend, a young couple we know lost two parents due to a motorcycle crash. I can only imagine the costs. I must hasten to say that the same funeral home who took care of my father-in-law also had two children from a family lost in a fire in our county. We were told the funeral home was taking care of all the costs.
I realize there are lots of things to write about today. I could be writing about the big Republican debate and those candidates who are politically dying before our eyes. Most of them are trying to suck in a few more breathes of oxygen before they finally expire into political has-beens. However, after grieving with family and loved ones at the funeral home and graveside for the entire weekend I just couldn't really think of anything that seemed more important.
Please give some thought about being prepared for exiting this life.
Glenn Mollette is an American Syndicated Columnist and Author. He is the author of eleven books and read in all fifty states.
(This column does not necessarily reflect the view of any organization, institution or this paper or media source )
Like his facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GlennMollette
September 12, 2015
In 2004 Kentucky voters passed by a 3-1 margin a state constitutional amendment defining marriage to be between one man and one woman. You’d be forgiven for assuming the initiative was on the ballot again this year.
The governor's race between Republican businessman Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway has been conspicuously quiet. “People like to know their governor, and I don't think either of these guys have done that with the people of Kentucky yet,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo told cn|2’s Pure Politics.
The lack of focus on the Nov. 3 election has left Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to fill the attention the news media and voters.
Bevin called a federal judge’s jailing of Davis for defying his order to issue marriage licenses “utterly ridiculous,” saying that there is no need to jail someone for First Amendment beliefs, and called on Conway and Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to take action to remove clerks’ names from marriage licenses. They said the law doesn’t allow them to do that.
Conway has exercised caution, waiting until after Davis was jailed to make his first comment. He said on Twitter, "I understand that passions are high on both sides of this issue, but we are nation of laws and no one can defy an order from a federal judge."
Asked by the county attorney to appoint a special prosecutor to look into an official-misconduct cases against Davis, Conway first did not respond. After Davis was released on condition that she not interfere with her deputy clerks’ issuance of marriage licenses, Conway said he would not name a special prosecutor because the matter was in federal court.
Conway has been largely mute lately, as he concentrates on raising money and wondering how much personal wealth Bevin will put into the race. His public appearances and media outreach have been almost non-existent since the Aug. 1 Fancy Farm Picnic.
Traditionally the governor’s race heats up after the Labor Day weekend, with a more intense schedule of debates and forums. Conway and Bevin will have their first face-off with independent candidate Drew Curtis at Bellarmine University in Louisville at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15. The debate will be televised on Louisville’s WHAS-11 and Lexington’s WKYT-27; it is sponsored by the stations and their newspaper partners in the Bluegrass Poll, The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The latest Bluegrass Poll, taken in late July, showed Conway leading Bevin 43 to 38 percent, with an error margin of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points (which applies to both numbers). Curtis had 8 percent.
Each side has turned up the rhetorical volume, with new TV ads.
Americans for Prosperity, a ”super PAC” supported by the Koch Brothers of Wichita, is attacking Conway for his support of federal health reform, or “Obamacare,” which it blamed for "a crisis in our hospitals” and “skyrocketing” insurance premiums.
The Kentucky Hospital Association says Obamacare has been a small part of its problems, but worries about future impacts. A national analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that the average premium increase from 2014 to 2015 was effectively zero, while premium increases in the last decade have averaged about 10 percent. Kentucky rate increases for 2016 range from a 25 percent increase by the Kentucky Health Cooperative, which has sold most of the policies on the state’s Kynect insurance exchange, to an 11 percent decrease from WellCare. Other increases are between 5.2 and 12.2 percent.
The Republican Governors Association has been attacking Conway along the same lines, while Bevin hasn’t run ads of his own. Conway’s first attack ad builds on the “East Coast con-man” moniker that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell applied to Bevin last year in their primary battle.
The ad shows Bevin making statements on the campaign trail, then apparently walking them back. It starts out showing Bevin saying, “I was opposed to the Farm Bill because it was an insult to farmers.” The screen then splits and shows him saying that that was “a misrepresentation of what he said.” He has a case; he objected to the bill’s spending for non-farm programs (most of its funds are for nutrition) and the money it funneled to big agribusiness.
The ad gets right that Bevin has backtracked on his opposition to the Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. He initially said that he would end it, but now says he would scale it back.
Beneath the fray is Curtis, CEO of Fark.com. Without the big money that comes with a party nomination, Curtis has been unable to air TV ads, but being an independent underdog comes with its advantages; he can ignore partisanship, and be free to talk about the issues. Curtis has released the most detailed plan to address the state’s underfunded pension system.
As the race heats up expect all three candidates to address other important issues. There will be sparring over the tax code, and how to create additional revenue the state needs; education, including the Common Core standards; and “right to work” legislation, which forbids employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.
However, if this summer can be used as a crystal ball for the fall, expect Bevin to continue his defense of Davis, and Conway’s refusal to appeal the gay-marriage ruling that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. State law allowed Conway to do that, but Bevin accuses him of hypocrisy.
By Matt Young
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications