Μία απίστευτη ιστορία έχει αναστατώσει το Κεντάκι των ΗΠΑ, και αφορά μία δικαστή, η οποία κατηγορείται ότι είχε μετατρέψει το γραφείο της σε χώρο ακολασίας μιας και έκανε τρίο με συναδέλφους της.
Επιπλέον, η δικαστής κατηγορείται ότι επέτρεπε σε υπαλλήλους να πίνουν αλκοόλ εν ώρα υπηρεσίας, ενώ έκανε κατάχρηση εξουσίας για να κερδίσει την επανεκλογή της. Η δικαστής, Dawn Gentry, αντιμετωπίζει εννέα κατηγορίες από την Επιτροπή Διαγωγής Δικαστών.
Τα προβλήματα άρχισαν όταν η Gentry προσέλαβε τον κιθαρίστα μιας μπάντας, τον Stephen Penrose. Η Gentry και ο Penrose, ένας πρώην πάστορας, χρησιμοποιούσαν το γραφείο της στο δικαστήριο, ως ροζ δωμάτιο σύμφωνα με τους ερευνητές. Μάλιστα οι δυο τους έκαναν τρίο με τη γραμματέα της, την Laura Aubrey.
‘This is someone abusing power.’ In Northern Kentucky, a judge finds herself under scrutiny over Snapchat and seduction
Correction: The description of the work Katherine Schulz did in Boone County has been updated.
A state investigation into a Northern Kentucky judge is linked to complaints that accuse her of demanding sex and money in exchange for preferential treatment.
Those who refused faced the “wrath” of the judge at the center of the complaints: Kenton County Family Court Judge Dawn Gentry.
One attorney reportedly quit after the judge flirted with her via Snapchat, pressured her to seduce the judge’s husband and asked her to join the judge and a former church pastor in a threesome.
That attorney’s boss said the entire firm experienced biased courtroom behavior from the judge after the attorney quit.
Another attorney said his clients suffered because he didn’t donate enough money to the judge’s political campaign.
“This isn’t just little bulls–t that happens behind the scenes in every county,” Mike Hummel, an attorney who also used to work for Gentry, told The Enquirer. “This is someone abusing power to affect the lives of others.”
The Enquirer called and emailed Gentry multiple times for comment, but she did not respond. She answered the phone once, and The Enquirer asked if she had received the multiple inquiries. She thanked The Enquirer for calling but said she had to “get to the bench” and quickly hung up.
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Cases of abused children caught in the crossfire
The complaints, obtained by The Enquirer, show that an active investigation is being conducted by Kentucky’s Judicial Conduct Commission. The commission is the only group in the state that can punish a sitting judge for misdeeds, including interfering with an attorney-client relationship. The commission has up to a year to complete its inquiry.
Stephen Woltnizek, a local attorney who serves on the six-member commission, told The Enquirer he could not confirm nor deny the commission’s investigation into Gentry.
But a combination of sworn statements and interviews obtained by The Enquirer confirm the investigation’s existence.
Hummel told The Enquirer a state investigator interviewed him in the fall about Gentry’s behavior. Another attorney wrote in a sworn statement, filed in a motion to recuse the judge from a Kenton County divorce case, that his employee was a witness in the investigation.
That witness, in her own sworn statement, explained how Gentry’s behavior trickled down to the most vulnerable citizens seeking legal help — abused children.
Clients became bystander victims as tension rose between the attorneys and the judge.
When attorneys didn’t do as Gentry asked, according to the complaints, they got kicked off or resigned from a legal panel that’s designed to give free help to children facing abuse. The attorneys tried to continue work with some clients and quickly transferred others to new attorneys. Gentry “thwarted” the efforts, according to Hummel and a sworn witness statement.
The witness is Katherine Schulz, who resigned from the panel in May. She wrote in her affidavit that she faced the judge’s “wrath” when she rebuffed sexual propositions from the judge; she also said she saw others punished for not sufficiently supporting the judge, either politically or by showing up for performances by the judge’s band, South of Cincy.
Hummel said he was pushed out of his job on the panel after 10 years and was replaced by someone who donated quadruple the amount he did to Gentry’s campaign. He told The Enquirer the judge later dragged her feet on signing documents that would have helped hundreds of children who were his clients.
The friendship between Gentry and Schulz, as Schulz defined it in her affidavit, started after Schulz got a job on the panel and knocked on doors throughout Kenton County for Gentry’s 2018 reelection campaign. Gentry, a Republican, became judge in 2016 when outgoing Gov. Matt Bevin picked her to fill a vacancy.
Gentry and Schulz regularly spoke over the app Snapchat, which deletes pictures, videos and messages once opened. Over the next few months, Gentry used the disappearing messages to ask Schulz to seduce her husband and join her in group sex, Schulz wrote in her affidavit.
The affidavit was not filed in a public court, but The Enquirer obtained a copy.
Schulz declined to comment on the contents of the affidavit but acknowledged the document’s accuracy. Hummel told The Enquirer he saw the affidavit, too, and believes every word.
Seduce my husband
Gentry wanted Schulz to seduce her husband in exchange for a higher paying position on the panel, according to the affidavit. Schulz refused, and expressed in the affidavit that she thought it was a joke until it was brought up on multiple occasions.
Schulz believed this was Gentry’s way of looking to blame her husband, Brian Gentry, for their divorce.
In October, The Enquirer reported that Gentry got a divorce in Grant County and got the record sealed. The Enquirer went to court and unsealed the records.
Guide to Judge Gentry investigation:: What to know, what happens next
Group sex inquiry roped into the judge’s affair
Gentry asked Schulz to have a threesome with herself and a man named Stephen Penrose, according to the affidavit. He used to be the judge’s pastor at Bromley Christian Church, according to Penrose’s LinkedIn page. The couple wanted to have group sex with Schulz at a legal conference in Louisville, according to the affidavit.
“After I declined the request for the threesome encounter, I feared my panel position might be in jeopardy,” Schulz wrote in the affidavit. She earned about $60,000 as a panel member.
After the election, Gentry replaced her case specialist, Meredith Smith, with Penrose at a salary $10,000 more than Smith’s, according to payroll records The Enquirer obtained through a Kentucky Open Records Act Request.
The Enquirer called and emailed Penrose for comment, but the requests went unanswered.
Smith told The Enquirer that Gentry asked her to resign. “Her reasons had nothing to do with performance,” Smith said in an email.
Schulz wasn’t the only one to claim Gentry and Penrose were having an affair. Hummel claimed he knew about the affair because he represented Brian Gentry, now the judge’s ex-husband, in the divorce case.
Hummel and Brian Gentry considered using sexual pictures the judge and Penrose allegedly sent to each other in the divorce case, Hummel told The Enquirer. They never did, though, because they wanted to protect the Gentry children, Hummel said.
The Enquirer saw the pictures and messages that allege the affair. They include pictures of male and female genitalia and song lyrics the judge’s band South of Cincy played at gigs. The lyrics match videos of performances the band posted to its Facebook page.
Gentry is the bassist and Penrose the guitarist. The band made an appearance in Schulz’s affidavit, too, as a way the judge displayed favoritism in the courtroom.
After one of the gigs, the affidavit alleges, Gentry told Schulz on Snapchat “something to the effect that the social workers seemed to want better results on their cases than the panel members [if they were attending shows and the panel members where not.]”
The messages stop and Schulz’s clients suffer
In the spring, Schulz began to feel “ostracized” by Gentry. Their Snapchat group went silent after an incident that was redacted in Schulz’s affidavit.
The silence continued until an attorney, whose name was redacted, called Schulz to a meeting.
At the meeting that took place in May, Schulz was questioned by an attorney involved with the Kentucky Bar Association Ethics Hotline.
That attorney asked Schulz if she had been “gossiping” about Gentry’s divorce.
The attorney suggested, according to Schulz’s affidavit, that when Schulz worked on the same panel for a Boone County judge, she violated rules set by the Administrative Office of the Courts, the state entity that manages courts throughout the state.
Schulz, who said she had been to the hospital because of extreme stress, resigned from Gentry’s panel that next day, according to her affidavit.
It wasn’t just Schulz’s resignation, spurred by Gentry’s behavior, that had an impact on residents who needed legal help, Schulz explained in the affidavit.
She tried to transfer her clients, some of whom she knew for two years, to a new attorney, but her attempts were “thwarted” by Gentry, according to her affidavit.
One client was denied a new attorney and then Gentry “refused” to let Schulz continue work on the case. Another who had a long-standing relationship with Schulz couldn’t keep Schulz as an attorney by Gentry’s decree.
Schulz knew this could happen. She saw it happen to her colleague, Mike Hummel, she wrote in her affidavit. The judge “adamantly disliked” attorneys who didn’t help her election campaign, Schulz wrote.
“When I observed this occur after Mr. Hummel was removed from the panel, I believed that lack of representation made case progress difficult for children, parents, and social workers involved in the case,” Schulz wrote.
A spot on the panel linked to campaign contributions
Hummel lost his spot on the panel shortly after Gentry’s 2018 re-election. He said in an interview with The Enquirer that he knew it was because he didn’t donate or volunteer enough for the judge.
“I think she used that power to f—k people over,” Hummel said.
Gentry replaced Hummel with Delana Sanders. Sanders and her husband Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders, donated quadruple the amount Hummel donated to Gentry’s campaign. The couple donated a combined total of $3,450. Hummel donated $750, according to public campaign finance records.
“I simply knew I wasn’t willing to make the financial donations she wanted,” Hummel said.
When he stopped work on the panel, he tried to transfer his clients to Delana Sanders and submitted paperwork. A signature from the judge would’ve granted his clients uninterrupted legal representation. But months later, close to 300 requests came back unapproved and unsigned, he said.
At the end of Schulz’s affidavit, she summed up how Gentry’s actions hurt the public and urged the judge to make amends.
“That it is time for you to make amends,” Schulz wrote. “To the voters, the community, to the people you have hurt, and displaced, and mistreated and abused, and left to feel worthless and small, and the people you intentionally instilled fear in because you feel so small.”
Julia is the Northern Kentucky government reporter through the Report For America program. An anonymous donor pledged to cover half of the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with The Enquirer. If you want to support the work Julia does, email her editor Carl Weiser at [email protected] to find out how you can help fund her work.
Do you know something she should know? Send her a note at [email protected] and follow her on twitter at @JFair_Reports.
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