Federal trials int the Eastern Kentucky District of U.S. District Court have been postponed yet again due to new orders concerning COVID-19, meaning it will still be several months before current cases get underway.
That includes the trials, both criminal and civil, of Pulaski County Constables Michael “Wally” Wallace and Gary Baldock.
Last week, Danny Reeves, chief judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky, issued General Order 21-2 which ordered all criminal and civil trials scheduled to begin between March 16 and May 16 to be continued until after at least May 16.
Trials will be rescheduled individually through an order of the assigned judge.
The order states that Kentucky has a positivity rate of 6.57% which exceeded the World Health Organization’s recommendation for reopening courts. WHO’s recommendation is for the rate to be at or below 5% for 14 days.
“Additionally, the Commonwealth has reported the sixth highest rate of new cases per 100,000 individuals and the eighth highest rate of test positivity in the United States,” the order said.
Despite the rollout of COVID vaccine, the court noted that demand is significantly higher than Kentucky’s current supply.
“Based on the foregoing, it is imperative that the Court continue observing precautions to limit large gatherings of persons and reduce the possibility of exposure to the virus and slow the spread of the disease,” the order states.
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants the right to a speedy trial, and while the court believes the public is best served by delaying trials due to the pandemic, the order does allow for any defendant who wants to have the delay reconsidered in their individual case to ask for a faster trial date.
Other court hearings, such as arraignments and detention hearings, my proceed as scheduled but are asked to utilize video or telephone conferencing under certain circumstances.
What this means for Pulaski-based cases is that trials will be postponed until sometime after May 16. Cases such as the trial for Constables Wallace and Baldock have not had their dates finalized.
The last scheduled date for the joint trial of Wallace and Baldock was January 19, with Baldock facing a trial of additional charges scheduled for March 8.
Baldock and Wallace are charged with Conspiracy against Civil Rights and Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. The charges came after an investigation by the FBI in which FBI agents conducted an undercover operation investigation into reports of the two Pulaski constables allegedly planting drug evidence, searching property without cause and stealing money seized in searches.
After their investigation, FBI agents arrested Wallace and Baldock at their respective homes on the morning of March 6, 2020.
While Wallace was taken into custody peacefully and released later that day, Baldock got into a shootout with FBI agents at his home, with both Baldock and an FBI agent being wounded.
Baldock was additionally charged with Attempted Murder of a Federal Agent and Discharge of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence. He remains in custody at the Grayson County Detention Center.
Both constables have pleaded not guilty to all charges.