MSD hires high-profile attorney to defend driver accused of killing LMPD detective

MSD hires high-profile attorney to defend driver accused of killing LMPD detective
Attorney David Lambertus has a history of successfully defending impaired-driving cases (Source: Nycea Patterson, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Metropolitan Sewer District has hired a high-profile attorney, with a history of successfully defending impaired-driving cases, following the death of LMPD Det. Deidre Mengedoht, WAVE 3 News has confirmed.

Roger Burdette appeared in court on Dec. 26.
Roger Burdette appeared in court on Dec. 26. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The detective was killed in a crash on Christmas Eve.
The detective was killed in a crash on Christmas Eve. (Source: LMPD)

MSD is a separate entity from Metro Government, so the cost of the lawyer would come from the agency’s own budget, which in turn would come from customers.

Louisville Attorney David Lambertus is now representing Roger Burdette, the MSD driver charged with murder and DUI in connection with the Christmas Eve crash that LMPD Chief Steve Conrad called “catastrophic.”

Lambertus was present for Burdette’s arraignment Wednesday, when he pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, at the time, it was unclear if Burdette had hired Lambertus, or if MSD did.

WAVE 3 News reached out to Lambertus, who did not wish to comment.

According to police records, Burdette failed a sobriety test and admitted to having taken multiple prescription drugs after slamming his MSD truck into the officer’s vehicle. Mengedoht had been conducting a traffic stop along a busy stretch of Interstate 64 in downtown Louisville on Monday afternoon when the crash happened.

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According to MSD’s website, the utility service receives its revenue from wastewater and stormwater service fees plus charges for connecting new customers and extending water lines, meaning customers could pay a portion of the attorney’s bills.

MSD is governed by an eight-member board, each of whom is appointed the Louisville Mayor, its website states. The agency’s revenue is used for the operation, maintenance and extension of service.

It is unclear if MSD is obligated to pay for Burdette’s attorney. At the time of this article, MSD had not responded with an explanation of why it hired Lambertus.

After WAVE 3 News broke the news that MSD hired an attorney for Burdette, Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said the city does not think it’s the right thing to do.

“The city has never paid for the criminal defense of an employee and would not given KRS chapter 65.2005, which provides for defending employees from civil liability only. We do not think it is proper for MSD to pay for the criminal defense... And we are talking with MSD about this decision.”

Metro Council President David James issued a statement late Friday afternoon in response to MSD’s hiring of Lambertus:

"I’m shocked to hear MSD would use rate payer funds to pay for a criminal defense attorney to represent the MSD employee charged with killing a Louisville Metro Police Officer. This is the first time I have ever heard of (an) agency paying for the defense of (an) employee accused of a criminal act.”

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