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Nighbert accused of threats to city staff

FRANKFORT — Former Transportation Secretary William Nighbert allegedly threatened several Williamsburg city employees who might have been cooperating with an investigation of his son, a former Williamsburg police officer who later went to jail on drug and other charges, according to court documents filed Friday.

Nighbert, who is currently facing federal bribery and obstruction of justice charges stemming from the alleged tampering of state road contracts, allegedly told Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison that "he was aware of the FBI investigation and threatened to 'cause trouble' for a Williamsburg police officer and other people in Williamsburg city government if the police officer did not stop asking questions about Brad Nighbert," court documents in the bid-rig case say.

Harrison said Friday that he could not comment or elaborate on the conversation between Nighbert and Harrison in October 2007. But a magistrate judge ruled Friday that the information about Nighbert trying to influence or obstruct the investigation of his son will be heard by a federal jury in the current obstruction and bribery case against Nighbert.

Federal prosecutors had argued that the jury should hear the information about Nighbert's prior attempts to obstruct an investigation.

Also charged with Nighbert are road contractor Leonard Lawson and Lawson employee Brian Billings. The three were charged in connection with an alleged scheme to tamper with $130 million in road contracts during former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration. All three have pleaded not guilty. The first phase of the two-part trial is scheduled to begin June 23.

Howard Mann, William Nighbert's attorney, was not available for comment on Friday.

Kenneth Brad Nighbert, a former Williamsburg police officer, was hired while the elder Nighbert was mayor of Williamsburg and has been in and out of trouble for several years. William Nighbert was elected mayor in 1993 but resigned in 2003 to work for the Fletcher administration.

In April 2006, Brad Nighbert crashed his cruiser into a woman's car while he was on duty. Nighbert later tested positive for Oxycodone and cocaine.

He later resigned as a police officer but his legal problems continued. In May 2007, Nighbert was arrested for trafficking in controlled substances and several other charges after Laurel County sheriff's deputies found him with $32,000 in cash and OxyContin pills. He was later sentenced to five years in prison.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Todd also ruled Friday that prosecutors could use at trial information that Nighbert failed to disclose a company called Double Buck on his state ethics form.

Prosecutors say that Nighbert did not disclose the company because he was attempting to hide an alleged bribe from Lawson that was paid to Nighbert by a Pike ville utility company that employed him as a consultant. The checks were made out to Double Buck.

Prosecutors say the money was payment to Nighbert for providing internal cabinet cost estimates on road projects that Lawson's companies were set to bid on. Defense attorneys had asked that the information about the alleged threat involving Brad Nighbert and the information about Double Buck not be included at trial.

Todd also ruled Friday that the jury would not hear evidence from an FBI interview with Tim Hill, a road contractor. Hill says that a Lawson employee told him that if he purchased asphalt from one of Lawson's companies that Hill's stalled state contract for a road would be expedited, court documents say. Hill could not be reached for comment.

Todd's ruling is not final. U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves will have final say on what will be heard at trial.

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