The charges were sensational and news about them reverberated across the state: Billy Joe Miles, the former University of Kentucky board chairman and one of Western Kentucky’s most prominent businessmen, had been indicted on charges of rape and sodomy.
Miles, 78, who was suffering from dementia, also was accused bribery in the September 2016 indictment, for allegedly offering the victim, a 30-year-old caregiver from a home health company, $1 million if she didn’t tell anyone.
And the allegations didn’t stop there. The alleged victim claimed she was almost immediately inundated with threats that she might be killed for challenging the wealthy, well-connected agribusiness owner, one of whose daughter is a state representative.
Someone carved the words “lying bitch” into her car and wrote on her window, “last warning, no cops, you will die,” wrote the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
She also told told investigators that a man she identified as one of Miles’ employees stopped next to her at a Sonic restaurant in Owensboro, got out of black pickup and began taking pictures of her, then posted one of them on Facebook, over the caption, “This is all over face book an (sic) I want everyone to make sure they know you lie.”
Then, as she was driving home from work, she said, her car burst into flame, destroying the vehicle. “I’ve had my world turned upside down,” KyCir quoted the woman.
But Daviess County sheriff’s investigators started noticing some discrepancies in her claims.
The real-time vehicle tracking system at Miles Enterprises showed the employee had never left his route to go to the restaurant. An examination of his phone showed it hadn’t been used to take the victim’s photograph. When detectives went to the Sonic, they found the background didn’t match the one in the picture. And after suspicion arose about the fire in the woman’s car, an investigation was opened into whether she had committed arson.
On Monday, the attorney general’s office filed a motion in Daviess Circuit Court to dismiss the indictment against Miles, which is set for trial Jan. 16.
In an affidavit, prosecutors said that after the alleged victim learned she would have to be questioned about the alleged threats – and after a judge ruled that evidence about them would be admissible at trial – she decided she “no longer wished to proceed in the criminal case” against Miles.
The woman’s lawyers cited her “fragile psychological condition,” according to the affidavit filed by Assistant Attorney Generals Jon Heck and Barbara Maines Whaley.
They said she declined to testify even though another special prosecutor assigned to investigate the arson and other alleged threats had declined to prosecute her, according to the affidavit.
“Given the present posture of the case and the witness’ desire not to testify, the commonwealth accepts her position and desires a dismissal of the case,” Heck and Whaley said in their motion.
In a brief phone interview Monday night, Heck, citing office policy, said he couldn’t say if the prosecution believes the threats were fabricated or whether it still believes the woman was raped and sodomized.
In a statement, spokesman Terry Sebastian said the attorney general’s office is “victim centered” and respected the woman’s decision not to move forward with the case.
In an interview, one of Miles’ criminal defense lawyers, Scott C. Cox, said he will file a motion Tuesday saying the defense has no objection to the dismissal.
He declined to say if Miles and his family were pleased with the motion, and state Rep. Suzanne Miles, one of the defendant’s daughters, also said it would be premature to comment because the motion hasn’t been decided by a judge.
Special Judge Kelly Mark Easton will have to decide whether to dismiss the charges permanently or to do so in a way that would allow them to be refiled.
Miles faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
It is unclear what impact the dismissal will have on a suit filed by the woman and her husband against Miles in which she sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The plaintiffs are identified only as Jane and John Doe of Lewisport in Hancock County.
In a statement, one of her lawyers, John Day of Nashville, said: “Like many women before her and, tragically, many women in the future, the emotional trauma of proceeding to a trial of this nature was too great for our client. Our loyalty is to her. We respect her decision. She has been through enough. We have nothing else to say about this subject. We ask that the press and the public respect her privacy.”
The dismissal will be a vindication for Daviess Sheriff Keith Cain, who refused to recuse his office despite his friendship with Miles and the fact he took a free trip with him to Miles’ ranch in Belize a few years ago.
KyCir published a story in January 2017 in which ethics experts said Cain should have stepped down, as the Daviess commonwealth’s attorney and a circuit judge had done.
The nonprofit news outlet also said Cain “exerted his influence, leveling accusations that raise questions about his impartiality.” The story cited a letter and phone call Cain made to the attorney general’s office challenging the honesty of Miles’ accuser.
Cain admitted he did those things, but in an op-ed article in the Owensboro Messenger Inquirer, he said it was only after his officers began to see a “pattern of inconsistencies in her statements.”
He wrote that when an officer or prosecutors becomes aware of “evidence that calls into question the integrity of a prosecution witness … he has a moral, ethical and legal duty to ensure that information is made available to the defense entire, particularly in a situation where the entire case depends on the testimony of that witness.
“We must consider the possibility that the witness has been less than truthful,” Cain wrote in the letter, which was later filed in court.
He said in his article that when when investigators in his office informed prosecutor Whaley about the evidence, they expected her to “appropriate action” but instead, “she not only showed no interest in this evidence but berated them for even bringing it to her attention.”
Cain said he then called Attorney General Andy Beshear and wrote a letter detailing the discrepancies.
“It would seem he shared our concerns as he subsequently removed her as the lead prosecutor role in this case,” Cain said. Sebastian said none of the office’s lawyers had been removed but didn’t respond to Cain’s assertion Whaley had been replaced as lead counsel.
Miles was accused of sexually assaulting the woman on June 2, 2016, in his 5,000 square foot home in Owensboro. He was released on $150,000 bond and ordered to surrender his passport.
According to court records, the woman said Miles propositioned her several times and said he’d taken Viagra. She said she went to sleep but awoke to find Miles, naked and pulling a belt around her neck before he raped and sodomized her.
Prosecutors said in court that that DNA evidence ties Miles to the accuser – that her DNA was recovered in a swab of his genitals.
They also said another caretaker was prepared to testify that Miles approached her in his underwear, asked him to hug her and eventually kissed her and put his hand down her shirt.
Miles was unquestionably suffering from dementia, Easton found in July, but the judge, to whom the case was transferred, found he was competent to assist in his defense and set it for trial Sept. 6.
Three weeks before that, however, Heck and Whaley advised the court that one of its witnesses was the subject of a criminal investigation.
Miles served on the UK Board of Trustees between 1995 and 2013 and in September of 1999 he was elected to succeed former Gov. Edward T. Breathitt as chairman, a title he held until 2002.
Miles served on the boards of Vanderbilt University Hospital, Marathon Fuels, National City Bank of Kentucky and few family-owned companies that included Miles Farm Supply and Miles LP Gas.
His alma mater, Western Kentucky University, named him alumni of the year in 1993 and in 1990 he was the March of Dimes Man of the Year for Western Kentucky.