Congratulations to businessman Leonard Lawson and former Kentucky Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert who were acquitted on all charges today by a federal trial jury sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The jury deliberated only about eight hours, after a hard-fought three week trial, before reaching its verdict. The Louisville Courier-Journal has the story here.
The government had charged Lawson and Nighbert with various counts of conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice. Judge Karl Forester knocked out some of the bribery charges after the government rested, but sent the rest of the counts to the jury on Thursday.
Kudos are also in order for the stellar defense team. I admit to being a little biased here. Lawson was represented by my law partners, Larry Mackey and Jason Barclay, and by Guthrie True. Nighbert was represented by Howard Mann and Kent Wicker.
The government’s case rested largely on testimony from James Rummage, who was decimated on cross-examination. The trial and pre-trial proceedings were marked by extensive litigation over alleged Brady violations. Only days before trial, prosecutors produced case agent notes indicating that Rummage had been told by a Lawson emissary to “tell the truth” to government investigators. Judge Forester ruled that this was obvious Brady material which should have been previously turned over.
I will have more to say about the Brady aspects of this case in days to come. Suffice it to say that the investigation was marked by many irregularities. For now it is enough to congratulate Lawson and Nighbert and to wish them a speedy return to normalcy. Their long nightmare is over.
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