The last remaining defendant in a federal bid-rigging case will not be prosecuted in the wake of last week's acquittal of the two primary defendants. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor said Tuesday his office would not pursue charges against Brian Billings, an aide to road contractor Leonard Lawson.
Lawson and former Kentucky Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert were accused of trying to steer millions of dollars in state contracts to Lawson's companies. The trial lasted three weeks before the jury found both men not guilty of all the charges.
Billings was charged separately with conspiracy to violate federal laws and obstruction of justice. In addition, the prosecution won't file charges against the star witness in the case, former state highway engineer Jim Rummage, who allegedly received cash payments from Lawson after delivering cost estimates to him on Nighbert's orders.
Taylor said both decisions were made because "in light of the circumstances of the Lawson-Nighbert trial, it's the only fair and equitable thing to do."
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Billings' attorney, Kent Wicker, agreed with the decision: "It was clear even before the verdicts came in on Lawson and Nighbert that the government did not have sufficient evidence to convict Brian Billings."
Wicker also said he was not surprised the prosecution had declined to charge Rummage.
"We said all along we believed there was a wink-and-a-nod deal not to charge him," Wicker said. "This decision makes it look as though we were correct."
Taylor denied there was any deal. Rummage also testified he had not received any leniency for his cooperation.
"We told Rummage we would evaluate his situation at the conclusion of the case, and that's what we're doing," Taylor said.