Saturday, April 17, 2004

Tina Conner loses appeal in Patton case

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FRANKFORT - The one-time mistress of former Gov. Paul Patton lost an appeal Friday to reinstate most of a lawsuit against Patton and the state.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals said Tina Conner could not pursue a case for sexual harassment because Patton was not her employer, and the applicable law covered only workplace relationships.

Nor could she claim a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act because there was no evidence that she was denied housing, public accommodations or financial services, a three-judge panel said.

Conner, who operated a nursing home in the western Kentucky town of Clinton, claimed Patton caused state regulators to ruin her business in retaliation for her ending their two-year affair. Her public allegations effectively ended Patton's political career. Patton's term as governor expired in December.

Conner sued Patton and the state in Franklin County Circuit Court in 2002, raising various claims that included sexual harassment, defamation and waste. The court dismissed all the charges except for a single allegation against Patton - that he engaged in outrageous conduct.

Meanwhile, the court also upheld the dismissal of rape and sodomy charges against a Bullitt County man who was indicted in 1987 but never went to trial.

Prosecutors had alleged that Jackson Hugh Vincent committed the crimes between September 1984 to March 1985.

Vincent had an arraignment in January 1988 and the trial was scheduled to begin on two separate dates in 1989. However, nothing happened with the case until 1991, when Vincent asked for the case to be dismissed because of "pretrial delay."

The court made no ruling, and the case was dormant until the Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville mentioned it in a series about case backlogs in Bullitt Circuit Court.

In December 2002, Vincent asked again for a dismissal. The circuit court dismissed the case in March 2003. The state was appealing the dismissal.

But a three-judge appeals panel upheld the circuit court's ruling. The court blamed prosecutors for taking so long.

"Dismissal of an indictment is a severe remedy and one that may allow a guilty person to go free without trial ... However, the right to a speedy trial and the overall fairness of our criminal justice system require that dismissal be the only remedy," Judge Thomas Emberton wrote in the opinion.

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