FRANKFORT — The central figure in an alleged bourbon theft and anabolic steroid trafficking ring, his wife and others pleaded not guilty Friday in Franklin Circuit Court.
Before Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, Gilbert "Toby" Curtsinger was arraigned on charges of receiving stolen property, trafficking in controlled substances and possession of drug paraphernalia. His wife, Julie Curtsinger, was arraigned on charges of trafficking in controlled substances and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The Curtsingers, both of Frankfort, had no comment after their arraignments.
A third co-defendant, Christopher L. Preston of Frankfort, pleaded not guilty to one count of trafficking in a controlled substance.
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Later, in another round of arraignments before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate, the Curtsingers, Preston and two other co-defendants, Joshua Preston and Robert McKinney, both of Frankfort, entered not guilty pleas on one count each of engaging in an organized criminal syndicate.
Court documents allege that Gilbert Curtsinger was the ringleader in the thefts of bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort and the Wild Turkey distillery in Anderson County.
Whitney Lawson, Curtsinger's defense attorney, and Kevin Fox, defense attorney for Julie Curtsinger, told Shepherd that they have a concern about a warrant to search the Curtsingers' property, but they didn't disclose details.
Lawson also told both judges that she has "great concerns" that hundreds of documents, including warrants and investigative reports, that were included in a public court file could affect her client's ability to receive a fair trial.
That discovery includes some evidence that would not be admissible at trial, Lawson said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland said it is routine for his office to file discovery in cases in which there has been a guilty plea.
He was referring to the cases of two other defendants, Ronnie Lee Hubbard of Georgetown and Shaun Ballard of Richmond, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to criminal conspiracy to receive stolen property over $10,000, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Under their plea deals, Ballard and Hubbard have agreed to testify truthfully at trials of other co-defendants. So far, 10 people have been indicted in the case in which more than $100,000 worth of bourbon, including rare Pappy Van Winkle, was stolen.
The case has drawn national attention, and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Zach Becker has said he expects more indictments will follow.
Wingate dismissed Lawson's concern about publicly filed discovery and the potential for pre-trial publicity.
"People are not as in tune with the media as they used to be," Wingate said. There have been times when potential jurors have not been aware of a murder case, even though it received wide play in newspapers and on television, he said.
The bourbon theft case broke in March, when five barrels of Wild Turkey were found on the Curtsingers' property. Fox, Julie Curtsinger's attorney, told reporters that his client "did not know they were there."
Earlier this week, a 10th defendant, former Buffalo Trace security guard Leslie Wright of Frankfort, was indicted for her alleged role in looking the other way when Gilbert Curtsinger and another man took stainless steel barrels of bourbon from Buffalo Trace. Wright is scheduled for arraignment May 29.
Two other co-defendants, Mark Searcy of Lawrenceburg and Dusty Adkins of Georgetown, also are scheduled to be arraigned May 29, on one count each of engaging in an organized criminal syndicate.
The indictments in the bourbon-theft case are split between two divisions of Franklin Circuit Court, but Shepherd said he anticipated that they will be consolidated into either his or Wingate's court.