Association expels 2 Kentucky prosecutors over nude image controversy, misconduct

The Kentucky Commonwealth's Attorneys' Association has voted to expel a prosecutor who had traded favors in court with a defendant in exchange for nude images from her and a prosecutor who committed professional misconduct.

The association announced Tuesday that it had voted Thursday to kick out Ronnie Goldy Jr., the commonwealth's attorney for the 21st Judicial Circuit, and Rick Boling, the commonwealth's attorney for the Third Judicial District, from its membership.

The vote prevents the two men from attending future association events and conferences and only applies to their membership in the statewide association, as the organization noted it does not have the ability "to formally discipline, suspend or remove elected Commonwealth's Attorneys from office."

“Serving as an elected Commonwealth’s Attorney is a privilege, and so is membership in this Association,” said Kentucky Commonwealth's Attorneys Association President Carrie Ovey-Wiggins, who serves in the 56th Judicial Circuit. "Information has come to light regarding both individuals that fall well below the standard we believe Commonwealth’s Attorneys must uphold to maintain public trust. While we do not have the authority to take any formal action regarding their status as elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys, we feel this action is necessary to express our objection to such behavior."

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The association listed 55 members on its website as of Tuesday morning, with Goldy and Boling removed from the page. Boling did not immediately respond to an email and phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Goldy referred a request for comment from The Courier Journal to his attorney, Tim Denison.

Denison said Goldy "is an elected official who is well thought of (and) well respected in the community," with no prior record of discipline, and "when all the facts come out, we are firmly convinced that Ronnie will be absolved of any allegations of wrongdoing."

"He's a man of integrity," Denison said. "He's met these charges head on, and we were a little surprised at the motion that was made...based on an inaccurate, hearsay article, much of which has not yet been established or proven and much of which is false."

Denison additionally described the reporting about Goldy's messages with the defendant as "conjecture," and he called the vote from the association a "face-saving attempt" to distance itself from Goldy.

Ovey-Wiggins told The Courier Journal in an email Tuesday that the basis for each motion to expel the two prosecutors was related to prior incidents the newspaper had reported on this year.

The Courier Journal first reported in July that hundreds of pages of Facebook messages from 2018 to 2020 showed Goldy – the commonwealth’s attorney for Bath, Menifee, Montgomery and Rowan counties in Eastern Kentucky – had told a defendant if she sent him nude images and videos, he would talk to judges about continuing her cases and setting aside warrants.

Commonwealth's Attorney Ronnie Goldy
Commonwealth's Attorney Ronnie Goldy

The Facebook messages, which surfaced in an unrelated criminal case against a former judge who Goldy may testify against, show the defendant sent the prosecutor what he requested on at least two occasions.

“Even a fifth-grader would know this is inappropriate and doesn’t pass the smell test,” Boston College law professor R. Michael Cassidy, the author of “Prosecutorial Ethics,” a leading work on the topic, told The Courier Journal last month.

Goldy, who was first elected in 2012, told The Courier Journal last month in a brief interview that he did not do any favors for Helton but declined to offer any explanation for the messages. An inquiry commission later asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to temporarily suspend Goldy.

In an Aug. 4 letter, Goldy asked the Kentucky attorney general’s Office of Special Prosecutors to appoint a prosecutor to take over a case against the defendant with whom he had exchanged messages. He did not offer a reason for the request.

Boling, the commonwealth's attorney for Christian County in Western Kentucky, was ordered by the Kentucky Supreme Court in May to show why he should not be suspended from practicing law for three episodes of professional misconduct.

The court said it decided to act after it learned a judge had dismissed an indictment because of Boling’s prosecutorial misconduct during a grand jury proceeding. The Courier Journal reported that same week in May that a judge dropped a manslaughter charge against a defendant on the grounds that Boling "knowingly or intentionally" presented false and misleading information to the grand jury that indicted him.

Commonwealth's Attorney Rick Boling
Commonwealth's Attorney Rick Boling

The Supreme Court noted that in his first disciplinary case in 2020, Boling wrote a letter on his office letterhead asking then-Gov. Matt Bevin to pardon Dayton Jones for sodomizing an unconscious boy.

The court noted Boling questioned the integrity of the former prosecutor, the Christian Circuit Court judge who presided over the case and Jones' defense counsel.

The Supreme Court said about six months later, Boling was the subject of a second complaint for misconduct in the trial of Karen Brafman on charges of arson and attempted murder. The court reversed her conviction and life sentence and ordered a new trial.

The court found Boling was aware of evidence Brafman was intoxicated at the time of the crime but argued against an intoxication jury instruction on the grounds no such evidence existed. The court said that rendered the verdict fundamentally unfair.

This story has been updated.

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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky attorneys' association expels Ronnie Goldy, Rick Boling