- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - Experts and law enforcement disagree on whether a western Kentucky sheriff should recuse his office from investigating a high-profile rape case with a wealthy, politically connected defendant.

The case involves Daviess County businessman and former University of Kentucky board chairman Billy Joe Miles, who was charged in September with rape, sodomy and bribery of a witness.

Experts told WFPL-FM’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in Louisville (https://bit.ly/2jHiiHU) that it would have been best for Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain to hand the investigation over to state police to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The station reports that the men are friends, that Cain has traveled to Miles‘ ranch in Bolivia and that the sheriff appears to be interjecting himself into the case in a way that favors Miles.

Cain said he’s done nothing wrong and is confident that his agency can handle the investigation with integrity.

He said he has distanced himself from the investigation and is neither directing nor influencing it, though he acknowledged reading his investigators’ reports and discussing the case with his subordinates.

WFPL reports Cain also sent a letter to the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Barbara Maines Whaley, questioning the honesty of the alleged victim, who reported being harassed and threatened after Miles was indicted.

Whaley filed a motion to prohibit Miles‘ family and employees from contacting the woman, which the judge granted. Afterward, Cain called Attorney General Andy Beshear to complain about Whaley.

Cain said he heard that Whaley had accused him of “unfairly discrediting” Miles‘ accuser and failing to protect her.

“The prosecutor was acting in a fashion that we thought could be detrimental to the prosecution of this case,” Cain said, because she disregarded his concern about the victim’s honesty.

Whaley did not respond to repeated requests from the station seeking comment.

About the time of the call, the attorney general’s office added prosecutor Jon Heck to the case. Both prosecutors appeared at the next hearing in November, but Whaley did not speak.

Beshear’s second-in-command, J. Michael Brown, watched the hearing but declined to say afterward whether Whaley’s role in the case had changed.

Experts say best practices call for Cain to step away from the case.

Kenneth Ray, a criminal justice authority with several decades of experience in law enforcement, said Cain’s involvement in the case could be seen as fueling “the perception of an undue influence for a preferred outcome.”

“If you really want to avoid any conflict of interest, you call the state police and turn the case over to them,” said Ray, who is based in Ashland. “It helps ensure the credibility of the investigation, and it’s just best for purposes of objective justice.”

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, said that Cain should have had state police handle the investigation when he found out that a friend and benefactor was under investigation by his office.

“At the very least it throws a cloud over the entire case,” Harris said. “He’s clearly taking actions and weighing in. He should have gotten out immediately.”

Other justice officials in Daviess County have recused themselves from the case, including the local prosecutor’s office and both circuit judges.

Circuit Judge Joseph Castlen said he decided to step away from the case even though he met Miles only once.

“The nature of the case is one that draws a great deal of public interest here, and in a small town, gossip spreads faster than the speed of light,” Castlen said.


Information from: WFPL-FM, https://wfpl.org

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