Commonwealth Journal

November 15, 2013

Molen accepts plea deal

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Molen has indicated he will plead guilty to using excessive force during a 2008 arrest as part of a plea agreement stemming from the Western District of Kentucky.

However, it appears that two other cases involving Molen in the Eastern District have been tossed out as part of the plea deal, according to another of Molen’s alleged victims.

“I really don’t know what to say about this,” said local tow truck business owner Danny Whitaker. “I’m not happy with it at all.”

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.

Whitaker on Friday told the Commonwealth Journal that federal investigators contacted him and said his and fellow Pulaski County resident Gordon Cowan’s cases have been dropped from the Eastern District docket.

Calls placed to Molen’s attorneys — Patrick F. Nash and Brandon W. Marshall — the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Cowan to confirm that statement were not returned by press time Friday.

Molen, 48, via Nash, Marshall, and Joe A. Jarrell, filed a motion on Thursday asking that a new arraignment hearing be set and consolidated with a sentencing hearing in the Western District case.

“In support of this motion ... the parties have reached a plea agreement which requires Mr. Molen to plead guilty to Count One of the Indictment,” states the motion. “ ... The parties have agreed to a specific sentence as the appropriate disposition of the case.”

In the Western case, a federal grand jury 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.

“Specifically, the defendant assaulted (Fourman), resulting in bodily injury ...” states the Western District indictment.

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.

The plea agreement details have not yet been officially made public but Whitaker said Friday that he was told by federal investigators the sentence will include a six-month stint of home incarceration.

“It kind of blows me away that nothing was done with it,” said Whitaker.

The eastern District case began in June of this year after a federal grand jury in London, Ky. handed down the two charges, which stem from incidents involving Whitaker and Cowan dating back to 2009 and 2011, respectively.

Both 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.

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 the Oct. 2009 incident.

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.

Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood, when contacted by the Commonwealth Journal on Friday about the Western District plea deal, said he had no knowledge of the agreement.

Wood told reporters in June he was confident his deputy would be acquitted in the Eastern District cases, and he stood behind his deputy.

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

“It’s just not right, and it’s not fair,” said Whitaker.

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

Senior District Judge Thomas B. Russell, with the Western District, has not yet responded to Molen’s request for a new arraignment and sentencing date.