Saturday, August 18, 2001

Battle over sex file continues

Case is dead, but those named want anonymity

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Legislators and lobbyists being entertained by half-naked exotic dancers during gambling, golf and sex junkets. Liquor-fueled parties in a Capitol office, with women being harassed and even a “condom tree.”

        The stuff of a tawdry novel?

        Actually it describes the contents of a huge file compiled during an investigation of a small-time state legislative aide who was trying to act like a big shot.

        Kentucky newspapers and a growing list of John Does, Jane Does and “unnamed citizens” have carried on a three-year tug-of-war over the file and the issue is still in court.

        Attorney William E. Johnson, who represents one of the people trying to keep the file closed said the interest is largely prurient.

        The case itself is long dead.

        The central figure was Kent Downey, the former director of operations for the state House of Representatives, whose office was adorned with pictures of scantily clad women and a small plant with condoms hanging from the limbs.

        Mr. Downey ran a business from his state office that organized golf outings, often with exotic dancers as entertainment. He pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal prostitution and gambling charges and was sentenced to probation.

        Federal authorities, who less than a decade earlier had sent a handful of Kentucky legislators to prison in an undercover probe, thought they had another corruption scandal. All they ended up with was Mr. Downey and two minor aides.

        But there is still the file, more than 500 pages of statements, documents and at least one videotape that apparently shows dancers performing sex acts on a golf course.

        The Lexington Herald-Leader, the Courier-Journal of Louisville and the State Journal in Frankfort sued to obtain the file under the state's open records law. The attorney general's office, which compiled the material with federal authorities, agreed to release it.

        Franklin County Circuit Judge William Graham ruled the file should remain secret, but was overturned on appeal.

        As the battle continues, an investigator says letters have been sent to 73 legislators and government employees to tell them their names are in the files and give them a chance to ask to have their identities deleted. Judge Graham, who has taken control of the files, said they contain material that is “highly personally embarrassing.”

        “There's no need to disrupt the lives of these individuals, really for no legitimate reason,” added Robert Moore, who represents several people who are trying to keep their names out.

        The Associated Press/ED REINKE Former Kentucky General Assembly employee Kent Downey, with wife, Eileen, arrives at federal court in Frankfort in 1997. Mr. Downey pleaded guilty to gambling and prostitution charges.


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