FRANKFORT — A federal judge has unsealed the transcript of a May 13 closed hearing in a criminal case involving top road contractor Leonard Lawson.
U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves ruled Thursday that the hearing in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Todd was properly closed in an effort to prevent the "premature release of inadmissible evidence which could jeopardize jury selection."
The hearing was about the conduct of attorneys on the case and also about whether certain tapes should be admitted as evidence.
Although Reeves entered his order Thursday, the transcript of the hearing was not yet available Thursday night.
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The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader had protested the closing of the hearing and asked for transcripts to be released. The newspapers noted that no reason was given for the closing of the hearing.
On Tuesday, at a hearing in Covington, lawyers for the newspapers also said that too many documents in the criminal case have been sealed.
Reeves said he reviewed the transcript of the hearing and decided that it can be unsealed "without unnecessarily jeopardizing the defendant's right to a fair trial."
Lawson and former Transportation Secretary William Nighbert have been charged with conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice. A third man, Brian Billings, a Lawson employee, faces charges of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say Lawson paid for internal cabinet estimates on road projects that Lawson's companies were set to bid on during former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration.
All three have pleaded not guilty. The first part of a two-part trial is scheduled to begin June 23.