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Police chief under investigation

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Landmark News Service

 Another LaRue County official is under investigation.

Kentucky State Po­­lice Detective Forrest Win­chester confirmed Hodgenville Police Chief Steve Johnson is the subject of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement and Special Investigations West Branch.

Johnson’s credibility was called into question by Assistant Common­wealth’s At­tor­ney Whitney Meredith during a motion hearing Monday in a criminal case against former Hodgenville mayor Terry Cruse and former city clerk MaDonna Hornback in LaRue Circuit Court. Win­chester, who conducted the investigation into Cruse and Hornback that led to indictments, would not comment further on the ongoing investigation.

In the motion hearing, Meredith requested a response to her motion filed May 7 requesting evidence regarding a confidential informant, Hornback’s son, to which Johnson testified during Cruse’s removal hearing May 1.

Ron Mather, attorney for Cruse and Hornback, said he attempted to contact Johnson for the documentation, but said the chief was on “short notice” with the city and was not permitted to speak with him on this matter.

Mather also said Johnson testified in the removal that documentation does not exist regarding any confidential informants, including Hornback’s son.

Meredith said she felt a statement saying no evidence exists is necessary for the record.

“We don’t feel like (Johnson is) being truthful,” she said.

Judge Charles Simms said he felt he was in uncharted territory.

“I feel like I am in bizzaro world,” he said, noting it was a rare occurrence for the chief of police to be a witness for the defense.

He recommended Meredith subpoena Johnson for the records.

Mather also was to file a brief Tuesday in answer to a motion filed in April regarding personal communication in the case. The News-Enterprise was unable to confirm if the brief was filed.

In the motion, Mather requests personal communications be suppressed because it “exceeded the scope of the search warrant” carried out by KSP.

“I cannot see on the search warrant that it authorized the seizure of any sort of personal communications,” he said in an interview following Monday’s court appearance. “I believe it dealt with financial documents.”

Cruse was removed from office by a unanimous vote by city council following a 10-hour removal hearing May 15. The same evening, the council voted to appoint councilman Kenny Devore to fill the vacancy.

Devore terminated Hornback’s employment May 18. The job has yet to be posted, Devore said, but he has started to take applications.

As far as Johnson’s personal involvement with the former mayor and city clerk, Devore said he could not tell Johnson what to do with his personal relationships.

“We need to stay out of the case,” De­vore said. “He has a job to do as the chief of police.”

Devore also said he was unaware Johnson was under investigation by KSP.

Cruse faces nine counts of abuse of public trust; one count of theft by unlawful taking; two counts of campaign contribution restrictions/expense limits; and two counts of second-degree forgery.

Hornback is charged with 54 counts of abuse of public trust and one count of theft by unlawful taking.

Each charge is a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. Cruse and Hornback entered not-guilty pleas following the indictments. A motion hearing in the cases is at 9 a.m. June 16 in LaRue Circuit Court.

The trial is set for Sept. 8.