Politics & Government

Judge won't release key document from investigation regarding David Williams

FRANKFORT — A Franklin Circuit Court judge on Wednesday ordered the release of several documents related to a decade-old attorney general's investigation involving Senate President David Williams.

But Judge Thomas Win gate said a key document — a summary of an interview with a woman who alleged that Williams acted inappropriately when he was her attorney in a criminal case — would not be released because it contained personal information and would be an invasion of the woman's privacy.

The state's two major newspapers, the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville, filed open records requests with the state attorney general's office in the spring, asking for records of any investigations involving Williams, a Burkesville Republican who is running for governor.

In 2002, the Herald-Leader reported that Williams was investigated by the attorney general's office that year.

Lori Radford Sandlin, a former client of Williams and a state prisoner, wrote to then-Gov. Paul Patton asking to be pardoned. Sandlin alleged that Williams had asked for sexual favors in exchange for legal representation. The matter was forwarded to the office of then-Attorney General Ben Chandler, which determined there was no criminal wrongdoing.

Chandler's office forwarded the matter to the Kentucky Bar Association, which has never publicly reprimanded Williams for any reason.

At the time, Williams denied he had had sexual relations with Sandlin and said he had full documentation to prove he had been paid to represent her. Williams also provided the Courier-Journal with a recorded telephone conversation between him and Sandlin in which she says they did not have a sexual relationship, the newspaper reported at the time.

After receiving the newspapers' requests in the spring, the attorney general's office said that anyone involved in the criminal investigation would be allowed to review the records before they were released.

Stephen Poindexter, a Burkesville lawyer, filed a motion June 17 in Franklin Circuit Court on behalf of "Jane Doe" asking that the file not be released, saying it contained personal information and "embarrassing disclosures." Later, Gregg Hovious, a Louisville lawyer, filed a motion to intervene, saying he was representing a "John Roe." Hovious declined to say whether that person was Williams.

The Courier-Journal argued in court documents that the information in the case file was public information and that there were no privacy rights to protect.

Wingate sided with the media organization in determining that much of the file could be released — which includes the criminal history of "Jane Doe," media reports about the 2002 incident and her letter to Patton asking for a pardon.

But Wingate said a summary of the interview should not be released because it contained allegations of sexual acts.

According to media reports in 2002, investigators with Chandler's office had interviewed Sandlin at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women at Pewee Valley, where she was serving a four-year sentence for theft and bail jumping.

"The release of the details may satisfy the public's curiosity, but it would not further the public interest and would constitute an unwarranted invasion of Ms. Doe's privacy," Wingate wrote.

Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer for The Courier-Journal, said Wednesday that the newspaper had not decided whether it would appeal Wingate's decision.

Poindexter, who would not confirm that he was representing Sandlin, said he and his client were pleased with Wingate's decision, saying the details in the interview summary did not need to be disclosed.

Hovious was not immediately available for comment.

Shelley Johnson, a spokeswoman for Conway, said all of the parties have 30 days to appeal the decision. If no appeal is filed, the attorney general can release the information.

Williams faces incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and independent Gatewood Galbraith in the Nov. 8 election.