Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 13, 2012

Attorneys seek to disqualify prosecutor

Meade and Ferguson among 10 charged

ASHLAND — The attorneys representing two of the defendants in a federal case involving an alleged motorcycle theft and money-laundering ring have filed a motion seeking the disqualification of the assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the matter.

Michael Curtis and Jeremy Clark, who represent Richard “Dickie” Meade and George Ferguson, respectively, maintain that Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Smith should be removed from the case because he harbors a long-standing grudge against one of the other defendants, John C. Slusher, and his family.

Curtis and Clark contend Smith is using the case to wage “a personal and political battle” against his and father’s enemies and that their clients have been caught in the crossfire.

Meade, 64, and Ferguson, 53, both of Ashland, are among 10 defendants charged in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 7 in U.S. District Court in London. The government alleges the defendants participated in a money-laundering conspiracy related to the interstate shipment of stolen motorcycles. Some of the defendants also are charged with money-laundering and possessing stolen vehicle parts with the intent to sell them.

According to Curtis’ and Clark’s motion, filed Friday, Slusher, 58, is the only defendant in the case from the London area, and “has been and is politically opposed” to Smith and his family.

Slusher’s son, Colby Slusher, is the circuit court clerk of Bell County and is married to the daughter of Knox County Magistrate Giulio Cima, who, according to Curtis and Clark, was one of two principals involved in the removal of Smith’s father, Preston Smith, as Knox County jailer in 2003. The other was then-Knox County Judge-Executive Raymond Smith, the motion states.

Following Preston Smith’s removal as jailer, it’s believed Steven Smith was involved in an investigation of Raymond Smith until he was removed from the case by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington, according to the motion.

Curtis and Clark also argue statements made by Steven Smith at a September 2011, detention hearing for Slusher are evidence of the “vindictive and retaliatory nature” in which he is handling the case. At the hearing, Smith alleged Colby Slusher was elected Bell circuit clerk “due to some sort of election abuse and an ongoing federal investigation involving election abuse,” when “clearly, no such charges of any such nature have been acted upon by anyone against Colby Slusher.”

The attorneys contend Steven Smith also selected London as the venue for the case, even though Slusher is the only defendant from there, because he is well-known there, which gives him an unfair advantage in the case. One of the reasons he’s well-known was because he was a “leading opponent” in a recent wet-dry election in Barbourville and “clearly used his influence” to sway the outcome of the election, in which voters rejected alcohol sales by a 76-vote margin, the motion states.

Also, Curtis and Clark argue, their clients would never have been charged in the case if not for Smith’s “vendetta” against Slusher. According to the motion, Meade was interviewed by federal authorities in West Virginia in 2006 regarding the matter, but was never charged, and the case was then referred to another assistant U.S. attorney in Kentucky, who reviewed it but declined to prosecute it. Then, Smith became involved and “proceeded with gusto” once Slusher’s alleged involvement became apparent, the motion states.

The 10 defendants in the case are facing a total of 18 charges. The others charged are Mark Justice, 52, of Ashland; Shon Fields, 33, of Cincinnati; Robert Jason Chapman, 31, and Christina Bannigan, 31, both of Cleves, Ohio; and Robert “Trader Bob” Harris, 61, Margaret “Peggy” Harris, 60, and Matthew Harris, 38, all of Newport. Robert and Matthew Harris are the husband and son, respectively, of Peggy Harris.

The government alleges the defendants participated in a money-laundering conspiracy related to the interstate shipment of stolen motorcycles. Some of the defendants also are charged with money laundering and possessing stolen vehicle parts with the intent to sell them. Additionally, Fields is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury, Robert Harris is charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement agency and Slusher and Chapman are charged with threatening witnesses to try to keep them from testifying before the federal grand jury investigating the alleged conspiracy.

The indictment lists four pieces of property  — two in Boyd County and one each in Bell and Campbell counties — the U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking to have forfeited because it alleges they are proceeds of or facilitated the commission of some of the crimes alleged in the indictment.

Additionally, the government is seeking a monetary judgment of $2.5 million, which prosecutors believe represents the amount the defendants derived from their alleged criminal conduct.

According to the indictment, the defendants altered or obliterated the vehicle identification numbers on stolen motorcycles. They then allegedly transferred the titles to others, before selling them, to conceal that the bikes were stolen.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • newwendy1.jpg Ashland woman develops pregnancy journals for mom, dad

    An Ashland woman has a way of helping parents everywhere.
    Wendy Sparks, 47, wrote The journals, which are for parents to keep for themselves and their children during pregnancy.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0420eggs0051.jpg Acres and acres of eggs

    A dozen volunteers spent the morning Saturday scattering more than 6,000 plastic eggs around the Greenup County Farm Bureau’s 10-acre field Saturday morning.
     

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Volunteers to pack thousands of meals for hungry Haitians

    Members of the First Baptist Church in Grayson are planning for the third year in a row to pack thousands of meals for starving people in Haiti, and they need help to do it.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Sheriff candidates ready for election

    With no incumbent in the Boyd County Sheriff’s race, Republican and Democrat candidates for the post will square off in their respective primaries next month.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • 0419sciencehs.JPG Russell High School wins State Science Olympiad

    The long ride home from Bowling Green was tinged with disappointment for Russell High School students who believed they’d finished as also-rans in the state Science Olympiad last weekend.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419sciencems.JPG Russell Middle School state Science Olympiad champions

    From identifying hundreds of insects to designing and operating mechanical contraptions that just look like insects, a team of Russell Middle School students took their research and technical skills to the Science Olympiad in Bowling Green last week and came back state champions.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419melodies0148.jpg Kitchen jazzes up downtown lunch hour

    Some came to enjoy the relaxing sounds of cool jazz and traditional tunes at lunch, while others attended in hopes of picking up a few tricks from a master musician as guitarist Chris Kitchen kicked off the Melodies & Masterpieces concert series in downtown Ashland Friday afternoon.

    April 18, 2014 4 Photos

  • Sparks, Waddell in Carter Coronor’s race

    Incumbent George A. Sparks of Grayson will face challenger William Waddell of Olive Hill in the Democratic primary election for the Carter County coroner’s seat.

    April 18, 2014

  • 04/18/2014 — What's Happening

    Local news

    April 18, 2014

  • Bill3.jpg 'Dreams'

    It was in her own death that Donna Schoonover helped William Schoonover redefine his life.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo