Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Kentucky to pay TV figure Walsh $20K for speech

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Television personality John Walsh will be paid $20,000 — four times the average state payment to actual crime victims last year — for taking part in a ceremony to honor crime victims.

        Mr. Walsh, who is the host of the syndicated America's Most Wanted, attended a luncheon, a reception and gave a 19-minute speech.

        About 150 people attended the 10th annual Kentucky Victims' Rights Day rally on the front steps of the Capitol on Monday.

        A spokesman for Attorney General Ben Chandler, whose office arranged the ceremony, said having Mr. Walsh on hand brought attention to the issues faced by crime victims. Spokesman Corey Bellamy said a videotape of the ceremony and Mr. Walsh's remarks would be provided to victims' advocates across the state.

        “We chose him because he can raise public awareness,” Mr. Bellamy said.

        A written statement released by Mr. Chandler Tuesday evening said it was “extremely important to recognize victims of crime on this very important day and focus public attention on protecting these citizens.”

        Mr. Walsh's speech consisted primarily of advocacy for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to create certain rights for crime victims, such as allowing them to testify at sentencing proceedings.

        Mr. Walsh also repeatedly complimented Kentucky for its initiatives in helping crime victims, such as the statewide victim notification system.

        Mr. Walsh also mentioned the name of his television show six times and referred to it indirectly several other times.

        Mr. Walsh's fee is to be paid with the proceeds of asset forfeiture cases. But Mr. Bellamy said Monday there is no money in the fund. Mr. Bellamy said the office expects to receive the proceeds of several forfeiture cases by the end of the state fiscal year in June with the proceeds used to pay Mr. Walsh.

        In the last five years, the fund has spent $21,847, according to records supplied by the attorney general's office. Most of the spending has been for computer equipment, though Mr. Bellamy said in an interview that weapons, furniture and vehicles have also been purchased with the funds.

        The fee to Mr. Walsh did not include expenses. Mr. Bellamy said Mr. Walsh stayed at a Lexington hotel on Sunday night and will bill the state for his first-class air fare. A check on the Delta Air Lines Web site showed a first-class ticket from Los Angeles to Lexington, similar to what Mr. Walsh might have used, costs $2,529.

        Executive Director Linda Frank said the fund did not pay for any part of the rally and was unaware of the arrangements with Mr. Walsh.

        Mr. Walsh came to public notice after the 1981 abduction of his 6-year-old son, Adam. He began advocating for missing children and his story was made into a television movie in 1983.


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