Despite conflicting statements from a detective, Frankfort Police Department records indicate a Frankfort man with a four-decade violent criminal history served as a confidential informant for the city as early as 2012 before a woman he temporarily housed on its behalf killed him.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd recently unsealed court documents alleging misconduct by Detective Bobby Courtney in his dealings with Meisha Nichols, a former Kentucky State Police and Paris Police Department confidential informant.
After Shepherd criticized the Frankfort Police Department and Courtney for temporarily arranging for Nichols to stay with 66-year-old Thomas Ellison, who had a history of violence against women, Courtney’s attorney, Thomas Clay, issued a sworn affidavit from Courtney stating the detective didn’t delve into Ellison’s abusive history “because Mr. Ellison was a source of information but never a confidential informant.”
According to department records obtained by The State Journal, Ellison signed up as a confidential informant/source on Dec. 12, 2012.
Ellison agreed per the confidential source document to participating in investigations, wearing electronic devices for recording purposes, testifying in Franklin County courts and assisting FPD by purchasing illegal drugs for the purpose of prosecution.
The handling officers’ signatures on the confidential source working agreement included Courtney and Sgt. Mike Frazee. Ellison’s confidential informant/source number was CS-FPD-2012-0027.
Per the agreement, Ellison supplied examples of his handwriting for payroll purposes and agreed to remain a source for one year, expiring on Dec. 12, 2013.
Ellison’s same signature appeared on an FPD document when he accepted payment from Courtney and another Frankfort detective for $200 to temporarily house Nichols on June 13, 2014. That was when she came to Frankfort from Paris after working as a confidential informant for police there. Nichols later moved to an apartment on Red Bud Lane in Frankfort.
According to a Frankfort police interview with Nichols, she stated she had stayed with Ellison the night she killed him a year later.
Hearing set for next week
Next week, the details surrounding Nichols and her relationship with the Frankfort Police Department and Courtney will be heard in Franklin Circuit Court.
Tuesday, Nichols defense attorney Rodney Barnes, managing attorney for the northern region of the Department of Public Advocacy, filed a subpoena for next week’s hearing for Frankfort Police Chief Jeff Abrams. Barnes has requested that Abrams produce records regarding Courtney’s personnel files and training and any internal documents regarding the recruitment, screening and handling of confidential informants/witnesses by Courtney — including Ellison and Nichols.
Barnes has also subpoenaed any communications about Nichols and Ellison whether internally from the FPD or the Paris Police Department and Kentucky State Police. Additionally, Barnes has subpoenaed Abrams to produce any policies, procedures and regulations regarding the handling of exculpatory evidence — evidence that would be beneficial to a defendant in court.
Barnes told The State Journal he wants to find out what the breakdown is in providing his office with exculpatory evidence for his client.
“I also want to know why were my client’s constitutional rights and rights to due process were violated,” Barnes said. “I want to know if this is going to happen again with the Frankfort Police Department.”
Barnes said he will also subpoena Courtney, Frankfort Police Capt. Walter Martin, Detective Scott Morgan, lead detective in the investigation of Ellison’s death, Detective Kenneth Keith and Kentucky State Police Detective Elijah Morris, named in Courtney’s affidavit, and KSP Detective Chris Masters, who, Barnes said, used Nichols as an informant.
City Solicitor Rob Moore didn’t respond to emails and calls asking who he may subpoena for next week’s hearing.
Clay will subpoena a former Louisville Metro Police Department narcotics detective.
“I’m going to have former LMPD narcotics detective Barron Morgan as a witness to testify about informants and exculpatory evidence,” Clay said. “We hope to establish that Detective Courtney did nothing wrong in the case of Commonwealth v. Nichols, specifically, that he did not withhold exculpatory evidence. He will also deny any improper conduct with the defendant which she has alleged.”