Courtroom gets heated as council president defends right to sue - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Courtroom gets heated as council president defends right to sue city

The County Attorney wants Yates off the LMPD's Youth Explorer Program case. (Source: WAVE 3 News) The County Attorney wants Yates off the LMPD's Youth Explorer Program case. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Metro Council President David Yates (Source: WAVE 3 News) Metro Council President David Yates (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell (Source: WAVE 3 News) Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Brandon Woods (left) and Kenneth Betts are accused of sexually assaulting teens in LMPD's Explorer Program. (Source: LMPD/WAVE 3 News) Brandon Woods (left) and Kenneth Betts are accused of sexually assaulting teens in LMPD's Explorer Program. (Source: LMPD/WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In court Friday, Metro Council President David Yates defended his position as an attorney to represent an accuser in the LMPD Explorer's Investigation lawsuit.

County Attorney Mike O'Connell argues it is a big conflict of interest.

Questions and answers between O'Connell and Yates got heated in the courtroom as the two metro officials became agitated with each other.

That did not sit well with Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman, as she had to step in more than once.

"I'm different than the other lawyers," Yates said on the stand, "I'm different than the other suits."

The Metro Council President testified he is the right attorney to represent alleged victims in the lawsuit accusing two former LMPD officers, Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood, of sexually assaulting teens in LMPD's Explorer Program.

Yates is seeking a $6 million settlement from Louisville Metro.

County Attorney Mike O'Connell contends because Yates also represents the city, it's a major conflict of interest.

"Isn't this like suing yourself, what you've done here?" he asked. Yates answered, "No."

O'Connell continued, "As head of the legislative body of the government to which you took a constitutional oath to serve their interests, isn't this like suing yourself?"

O'Connell focused his argument around an October 2016 Facebook message Yates sent to an alleged victim - identified as NC - about being his lawyer. He pointed out three key words in the message: "My unique position." O'Connell says that means Yates' position as Metro Council President. But Yates says he was talking about his experience on the Attorney General's task force prosecuting sex offenders and working with victims.

"My unique position is the empathy and understanding that I bring in addition to just practicing law and the skill set," Yates testified. "The hundreds of hours I spend in talking to these children and working with them brings something to the table."

O'Connell said, "I don't want to hear your life story." To which Yates responded, " I'm going to tell you exactly what I meant."

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Later, Yates said of the lawsuit, "I saw a wrong that I had to right."

O'Connell interjected, "Judge would you instruct the witness not to make speeches in response to simple questions?"

Yates says he contacted the Kentucky Bar Hotline for an opinion about any conflicts, and felt he could proceed.

A St. Mary's Law School Professor testified Yates has a conflict as a Metro Council member of seven years, by knowing things the public does not, like availability of funds to the city for settlements.

Testimony will continue Oct. 18.

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