News briefs from around Kentucky at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Thursday, May 8, 2014

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Ethics panel fines ex-lawmaker John Arnold

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold was fined $3,000 Wednesday for violating state ethics laws in a sexual harassment case in which three women state employees accused him of touching them inappropriately over a period of four years.

Wednesday was the second time the Legislative Ethics Commission found that Arnold violated state ethics laws. However, last month’s 4-1 vote failed. State law requires the nine-member commission to have at least five affirmative votes to take action.

That decision led to much public criticism and prompted leaders from both parties to call on the commission to re-hear the case. It even spilled over into Kentucky’s contentious U.S. Senate race, with Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell criticizing Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes for not returning a campaign donation from Arnold. Grimes kept the donation after two of the women who filed the complaint against Arnold told her to keep it.

The commission agreed Wednesday to hold a second public hearing.

They later voted 5-1 that Arnold used his position as a public official to violate the public interest. Commissioner Elmer George, an appointee of Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, was the lone no vote, he said because he does not believe the commission has the authority to punish former members of the legislature.

“We wanted the state to acknowledge that John Arnold assaulted us and has hurt us,” said Yolanda Costner, one of the three women who filed the complaint against Arnold and an adviser to House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson. “It has damaged our careers. It has damaged our relationship with our bosses. It’s something that has been going on for years.”

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Police: Ex-employee, wife stole $1M from Ky. monks

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A former employee at a central Kentucky abbey run by an order of Catholic monks has been indicted on dozens of theft charges that allege he stole more than $1 million from the institution.

Police said John Hutchins was working as an accountant at the Abbey of Gethsemani when he began diverting money, with help from his wife, from an abbey-owned account in 2008.

Documents from the Nelson County Circuit Court clerk’s office say Hutchins was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on 87 counts of felony theft and 87 counts of unlawful access to a computer, along with 174 counts of complicity to commit those crimes, for a total of 348 indictments. Hutchins’ wife, Carrie Hutchins, faces the same charges.

Luke Morgan, an attorney for John Hutchins, had no comment on the indictments Wednesday. Morgan said the couple will plead not guilty at their arraignment later this month.

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20 students taken to hospitals after bus crash

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