Commonwealth Journal

Local News

November 21, 2013

Deputy Steve Molen's plea bargain is final

Tow of three civil rights charges to be dropped

Somerset — Court documents confirm that two of the three federal civil rights violations facing Pulaski County Deputy Steven Molen have been dropped in lieu of a plea deal.

According to court documents filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Kentucky in London by Molen’s defense team, Patrick F. Nash, Brandon W. Marshall, and Joe A. Jarrell, Molen, who is accused of using excessive force during three separate incidents dating back to 2008, has entered into plea deal talks in the cases.

“Mr. Molen has recently entered into a plea agreement with the acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorneys for both the Western District ... and Eastern District of Kentucky,” states the document.

The document, which is a motion to continue Molen’s upcoming pre-trial conference in the Eastern District, states the plea agreement mandates that Molen plead guilty to one count of using excessive force and violating a victim’s civil rights during a 2008 arrest, which took place just past the Pulaski County line in Russell County. That case has been handled in the Western District.

“Additionally, the plea agreement specifies that ‘at the time of sentencing, the United States will agree to dismiss Counts 1 and 2 of (the Eastern District case),’” the motion states.

Molen had been facing a total of three federal civil rights violations — two in the Eastern District of Kentucky, and one in the Western District.

In the Western case, a federal grand jury this summer alleged that Molen used excessive force against former Burnside Mayor Chuck Fourman during Fourman’s August 24, 2008 arrest, which took place just over the county line in Russell County.

Fourman was arrested after he led city and county police on a high-speed chase that began in the city limits and ended in Russell County after around 30 minutes. The incident occurred after an apparent suicide attempt by the former mayor.

In the Eastern District case, Molen was accused of using excessive force against local tow truck operator Danny Whitaker and fellow Pulaski County resident Gordon Cowan in separate incidents from 2010 and 2011, respectively. The Eastern District case began in June of this year after a federal grand jury in London, Ky. handed down the two charges.

Both of the Eastern indictments state that Molen was acting “under color of law” as a deputy with the sheriff’s department when the two alleged incidents took place.

After court documents were filed last week in the Western District case indicating Molen would accept a plea deal, Whitaker stated he’d been told by federal investigators his and Cowan’s cases had been dropped.

“I really don’t know what to say about this,” said Whitaker on Friday. “I’m not happy with it at all.”

Molen’s assault on Fourman and the alleged assault on Whitaker were the focus of a 2011 hearing requested by Scott Foster, Whitaker’s attorney then, who hoped to establish a pattern of alleged brutality carried out by Molen in hopes of fighting Whitaker’s charges stemming from his arrest.

Eleven witnesses took the stand during that hearing, including three Somerset Police officers —  Billy Bolin, Joe Criswell and Eric Klepper — who allegedly witnessed Molen’s assault on others. A recording was played during the hearing that allegedly showed Molen striking a victim who had already been placed on the ground during an arrest.

Fourman also testified in the hearing and was asked to recall his arrest.

Fourman stated it was after the chase ended and he was handcuffed when someone approached him and kicked him in the groin while he was in a prone position on the ground. Although Fourman stated he didn’t know which officer struck him, Bolin testified he saw Molen strike Fourman.

Numerous other witnesses testified during the hearing who alleged brutality on the part of Molen, but several of them, during cross-examinations, stated they had been drinking when the incidents occurred.

In the Eastern District motion, Molen’s attorneys are asking that a pre-trial conference scheduled for this Friday in the Eastern District be continued due to the plea agreement. Western District Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell, who is presiding over the Fourman case, on Tuesday tentatively scheduled a consolidated re-arraignment and sentencing hearing in Bowling Green for Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time.

The motion states that the Eastern District charges will officially be dismissed upon Molen’s sentencing in the Western case.

Sentencing details are not yet public, but Whitaker said last week that he was told by federal investigators the sentence will include a six-month stint of home incarceration.

If Molen had been convicted of the charges, he would have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison for each count.

Nash, Marshall and Jarrell are representing Molen in both the Eastern and Western District cases.

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