Judge recuses himself from former UK basketball player's sex abuse case

ashelton@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2013 

Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael Jr. has recused himself from sentencing former University of Kentucky basketball player Michael Porter in a sex-abuse case.

Porter, 26, appeared before Ishmael in circuit court Thursday morning for sentencing, but Ishmael held a bench conference with attorneys and stepped down before he sentenced Porter.

Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone was designated to handle sentencing, according to court documents. A new date had not been scheduled as of Thursday afternoon.

Court documents do not say why Scorsone was given the case. Scorsone said "he cannot comment on pending cases."

Porter pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse with an underage girl he met through church. He was arrested May 15, 2012 after a sting operation by Lexington police yielded evidence that he'd had oral sex with a girl he met at functions at Southland Christian Church where he was a group leader, according to court documents.

Concerns had been raised last August about Ishmael presiding over the case because he had been a member of Southland. It is not clear whether any issues about Southland were raised during sentencing. Lisa Moberg, Ishmaels secretary, said Ishmael "won't have a comment."

Porter's attorney, Jim Lowry, declined comment.

During the hearing in August, Judge Ishmael said he wanted to state for the record that he has not attended Southland Christian Church since May 2010. Ishmael said he had "no knowledge whatsoever" about youth programs at Southland and did not know anyone involved with youth programs there.

Ishmael's attendance at Southland has been brought up before.

In October 2010, the judge declined to step aside from a murder case after a defense attorney said the judge's attendance at Southland could influence jurors.

Kate Dunn, attorney for Glenn Rahan Doneghy, said the judge's church membership might influence jurors in Doneghy's trial in the death of Lexington Police officer Bryan Durman, who also had attended Southland.

Ishmael said at the time that he no longer attended Southland.

Alysee Shelton: (859) 231-1330.

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