CARROLLTON — A county grand jury on Monday indicted the Carrollton police chief and a veteran officer for allegedly springing a mentally ill man from jail, putting him on a bus and banishing him to Florida this year.
Chief Michael Willhoite, 48, and officer Ron Dickow, 50, are charged with two felony counts — complicity to commit kidnapping and custodial interference — and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison on each felony count and a year imprisonment on the misdemeanor.
Willhoite's indictment leaves Carroll County in the unusual position of having its two top law enforcement officials facing criminal charges. Sheriff Jamie Kinman is awaiting trial on charges of official misconduct and tampering with evidence. Kinman has pleaded not guilty and remains in office.
After their indictments, Willhoite and Dickow pleaded not guilty. Over the objections of their attorneys, Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe directed that the officers not perform law-enforcement functions or be involved with police-related paperwork while under indictment. The 10-member Carrollton police department is now down 20 percent of its work force. The officers' attorneys refused to comment after court.
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Willhoite's and Dickow's roles in the banishment of Adam Horine sparked outrage across the state after a report in May by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Records and jail surveillance video show that Dickow had removed Horine, 31, a troubled mentally and physically ill man, from the Carroll County Detention Center five weeks earlier in violation of a judge's order.
The previous day, District Judge Elizabeth Chandler ordered police to transfer Horine immediately to Eastern State Hospital in Lexington for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Horine, who had been jailed on two misdemeanor charges, acknowledged to Chandler that he had mental problems.
Instead, Dickow — who later said he was acting at Willhoite's direction — took Horine out of jail before dawn, drove him to Louisville, gave him about $18 and put him on a bus for a 900-mile, one-way trip to Florida, the investigative reporting center found.
Authorities later charged Horine with escape to ensure his return to Kentucky. His circuitous journey through the criminal justice system later grew more complex. Authorities returned Horine to Kentucky and took him to Eastern State. He later surfaced at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Northern Kentucky. Police issued a summons July 1 accusing him of groping an incapacitated female patient. Horine was then transferred back to Eastern State for mental-health treatment.
His banishment to Florida sparked a criminal investigation by the state attorney general's office, which presented the case to the grand jury Monday. Representatives of the office declined comment after court.
Carrollton Mayor Robb Adams attended the proceedings and sat next to Willhoite and his wife as the judge read the indictments. Dickow's attorney, Rob Riley of La Grange, told the judge that Adams was "showing support" for the two officers. Adams declined to comment.
Summe, who was appointed to hear the case after two other judges recused themselves, released Willhoite and Dickow without bond and set a trial date of Dec. 1.
The kidnapping charge against Willhoite and Dickow asserts they "unlawfully restrained" Horine to interfere with "a governmental or political function." The custodial interference count alleges the officers took Horine out of jail and "kept him from the lawful custody" of Eastern State. The official misconduct charge accuses them of violating the judge's initial order to take Horine to Eastern State.
Willhoite and Dickow also face possible contempt of court charges. A different judge, Campbell District Judge Karen Thomas, is set to hear that matter this month. She has promised jail terms for the two men if she finds them guilty.
Charlotte Horine, Adam Horine's stepmother, said Monday that she was unaware of the indictments and had no comment.