By JEFF NEAL, CJ News Editor and HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
An FBI investigation has led to the federal indictment of a Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputy.
The Department of Justice announced Thursday that Dep. Steve Molen was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of violating the civil rights of victims by using excessive force.
The first count stems from an Oct. 2, 200 incident in which Molen is accused of assaulting Danny Whitaker, the owner of a local towing service, resulting in bodily injury.
Whitaker filed a civil suit against Molen after incident occurred, claiming that Molen had brutally beaten him during a traffic stop.
That lawsuit, filed in 2010, was resolved and dismissed in federal court in early 2011.
“I’m a little dumfounded,” Whitaker said last night. “I don’t know much about it, but I’m glad to hear it.
“I’m hoping for justice, but I’ve been raised up and let down so much, I’ll believe it when I see it,” Whitaker added.
The second count alleges that on Oct. 7, 2011, Molen assaulted Gordon Cowan, also resulting in bodily injury.
Cowan declined comment on the case last night.
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.
If Molen is convicted of these charges, he will face a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment for each count.
An order for issuance of summons filed Thursday said Molen will appear in U.S. District Court in London, Ky., on July 11.
The indictments state that Molen “willfully deprived (the victims) of the right, secured and protected by the Constitution of the United States, to be secure in his person against unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a person acting under color of law.”
Molen’s attorney, Patrick F. Nash, stated in a published report he’s confident Molen will be cleared of the charges.
Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood said Thursday night that Molen will continue his duties while under indictment and gave his embattled deputy a vote of confidence.
“I support every one of the men and women who work within the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office ... and I support Dep. Molen,” Wood said. “These people do a tremendous job, protecting our community in a very dangerous job — in a time where more and more law enforcement officers are being killed.
“That being said, I respect the U.S. Attorney’s Office and I respect this process,” Wood added. “We do not take these matters lightly.”
Wood said he felt Molen did nothing wrong.
“When the facts of the case are presented, I’m confident Dep. Molen will be acquitted,” the sheriff said. “Right now I am praying for Dep. Molen and his family. I know these are stressful times for them ... I stand behind him.”
When asked about the case against Molen, both Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield and Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock declined comment.
“It would be up to (Wood) to determine Dep. Molen’s employment status, depending on the outcome of the trial,” said Hatfield.
Bullock declined to comment as well, stating that he would need to speak to Hatfield and Wood before making a statement.
“I’d rather not say anything until I find out more about it,” Bullock said.
Molen has been a deputy with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department since 2005, and Wood has praised him in recent years for leading the department in drunk-driving arrests.
When asked whether any additional indictments were expected, a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Justice declined comment. She also declined to comment on how long the FBI looked into the alleged incidents before the indictment was handed down on Thursday.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pat Molloy and Ron Walker of the Eastern District of Kentucky and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Ali Ahmad.