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Nighbert asks for trial postponement

FRANKFORT — A former Transportation Secretary under Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants to delay a Jan. 11 highway bid-rigging trial and has asked a federal judge to try him separately from another key defendant.

In court documents filed Friday, attorneys for Bill Nighbert argue that they might need an additional 14 days to prepare for a trial in light of U.S. District Court Judge Karl Forester's ruling earlier this week that some recordings that he had previously excluded will now be heard by a jury.

Nighbert's lawyers are also asking Forester to try Nighbert separately from road contractor Leonard Lawson.

Nighbert, Lawson and Lawson employee Brian Billings were charged in connection with an alleged conspiracy to bribe state employees for internal Transportation Cabinet estimates of road projects Lawson's companies were set to bid on. Billings is already being tried separately.

Much of the prosecution's case rests on the testimony of James Rummage, a transportation engineer who says Lawson paid him for the internal information.

Rummage also secretly taped conversations between himself and other key players in the case. Forester ruled earlier this week that some of those recorded conversations can be heard by a jury, reversing a previous decision.

Nighbert's attorneys have also asked Forester to hold a hearing to address new evidence — more secretly recorded conversations Rummage had made. The new evidence is part of the reason Nighbert's attorneys are asking for the delay in the trial and to have Nighbert tried separately.