A human trafficking and rape case against a former Northern Kentucky judge grew more bizarre Wednesday at a tense arraignment and bond hearing in Kenton County.
It started normally.
Tim Nolan pleaded not guilty to an 11-count indictment that included rape, witness tampering, human trafficking of a minor, human trafficking of five adults, unlawful transaction of a minor and prostitution.
But then his attorney, Margo Grubbs, made impassioned arguments and accusations that prompted Kenton Circuit Judge Kathleen Lape to remark that this was a bond hearing and “not a comment on the justice system.”
Among the things revealed:
Grubbs said he and his client think a grandmother of one alleged victim is a tenant on Nolan’s sprawling farm in southern Campbell County and pays rent to him.
There are nine alleged victims covered in the indictment, according to prosecutor and Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley.
Grubbs argued that the bail was too high, accused police of not interviewing all the witnesses, and said someone, who they think is the mother of one of the victims, has tried to contact Nolan to see if he’s all right. She also said she thinks the accusations against Nolan are connected to a lawsuit.
She confirmed to the media after the hearing that the lawsuit she referred to was the defamation suit Nolan filed against some Republicans behind GOPFacts.org.
It’s another bizarre wrinkle in what has become a convoluted case that has shocked Northern Kentucky.
Nolan, dressed in a gray suit, sat calmly in court as his attorney unfurled arguments why she thinks authorities violated his rights. The Campbell County police went into his rural farmland “with guns ablazing” when they searched his property in February, Grubbs said in court.
Nolan could face more than 100 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He has maintained his innocence. After the hearing, he tried to talk to reporters as his attorney desperately tried to pull him toward the courtroom elevators.
“This is my attorney, and my attorney tells me I cannot make any statements,” Nolan said. “I’d love to other than I can tell you we have a great Constitution and I have a great attorney and we will vigorously defend this.”
Many in Northern Kentucky have known Nolan from his years as a district judge in Campbell County in the 1970s and 1980s and his involvement in politics, particularly with the Tea Party movement. He became a fixture at Campbell County Fiscal Court meetings, challenging many decisions, sometimes filing suit. He was elected in November to the Campbell County school board but resigned last week when a grand jury indicted him.
Few details have emerged about the case other than that it involves a minor on some of the counts. The indictment alleges that Nolan, 70, tried to induce a possible witness identified only as “M.R.” to either not testify or to change his or her testimony. The charges involve at least eight other victims, special prosecutor Barbara Whaley said in court. At least one is a minor age 16, according to Grubbs.
Nolan testified before the grand jury that indicted him last week. It didn’t seem to help him. The grand jury had asked for $750,000 bond when it indicted him. That’s very unusual, the judge said.
“I’m curious what they heard in the grand jury,” Lape said. “It’s kind of an extraordinary bond. The reality is, we don’t see bonds like that this side of the river.”
Based on the seriousness of the charges, Lape set the bond Wednesday at $50,000 cash, $100,000 property. He also is to wear an ankle monitor and to have no direct contact with the victims or with Transitions’ women’s residential addiction program in Covington.
“He’s facing a lot of jail time,” Lape said. “That makes him a flight risk or a disappearing risk.”
Grubbs said her client would post bond by the end of the day.
Making it more bizarre, a woman, identified by Grubbs as the mother of who they think is one of the alleged victims, was in the gallery sitting on the side of the defendant. Grubbs said they can’t be sure, because the indictment identifies the victims and witnesses only by initials.
Grubbs claimed that police didn’t interview her and other witnesses. The woman nodded her head in agreement but refused to speak to reporters after the hearing. Grubbs said the woman has tried to make contact with Nolan but can’t because of a court order prohibiting Nolan to have any contact with victims.
“It’s not fair that this woman is contacting my client,” Grubbs said.
“She wants to have a conversation with him and cares about him, and here we are, he’s prohibited from having contact.”
Campbell County Police Chief Craig Sorrell shook his head at times during Grubbs’ arguments. He declined to comment after the hearing.
Nolan’s attorney said she sees the allegations as a vendetta. Nolan in 2016 sued some local Republicans last year for defamation for accusing him of racism on GOPFacts.org. The website called Nolan “one of Campbell County’s most vehement racists.”
“I would call it a conspiracy,” Grubbs said, but she wouldn’t elaborate how the suit was connected. “You read the contents and find out. Go to the website and look at what they done to him.”
One of the people who started the website, Mike Combs, said the website has nothing to do with the accusations. He said he’s confident that he will prevail in the lawsuit, which he called frivolous.
“If there ever was something that could be called ‘fake news’ or alternative facts, this is that,” Combs said of Grubbs’ conspiracy allegations.
Nolan’s political and legal connections have created a complex legal situation. His daughter, Taunya Nolan Jack, is the county circuit court clerk.
The attorney general has appointed special prosecutors and special judges to avoid conflicts. Hearings have been held in courthouses in Boone and Kenton counties and will move to Campbell County in the summer.
Nolan was arrested and indicted in Boone County with a special judge, Elizabeth Chandler from Carroll County, presiding. All court documents are filed with the Boone County Circuit Clerk. Lape will preside over the case now.
The next hearing will be at 1 p.m. July 7 in the Campbell County Courthouse, with Lape presiding.
The prosecutors declined to comment.