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LMPD Explorer child sex abuse case settled for $3.65 million

The LMPD Explorer case involved seven victims who claimed they were sexually abused by former officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood while they were cadets in
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 12:08 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The child sex-abuse case involving two convicted LMPD officers has reached a multi-million dollar settlement, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters have learned.

The LMPD Explorer case involved seven victims who claimed they were sexually abused by former officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood while they were cadets in the department. As the FBI’s investigation continued, both of those officers were convicted.

According to Tad Thomas, the attorney representing the seven victims, the civil case was settled for $3.65 million, which will be split among them. The decision on how the money will be divided will be made by a mediator.

The majority of the money, more than $3 million, will be paid by the insurance company for the Boy Scouts of America, the organization that was behind the Explorer program. The remaining funds will be paid by the city’s insurance. The Boys Scouts of America claiming bankruptcy in the middle of the lawsuit, left Thomas with the possibility of his clients getting a fraction of the funds.

“It could have prevented my clients from getting more than 30 to 40,000 dollars,” Thomas said.

To the victims, the settlement brings some resolution, though the effects of the abuse still haunt them.

“It’s caused a lot of trust issues with the advisers being role models and considered them friends,” one of the victims who did not wish to be identified told WAVE 3 News. “I think it brings to light issues of abuse of power.”

The allegations of sex abuse first came to light in 2017, four years after the alleged abuse began. After the allegations surfaced, the department’s chief at the time, Steve Conrad, declined to pursue a criminal investigation. Conrad “by exception” closed the internal policy investigation against Betts, effectively bringing the case to a close.

“The Chief clearly knew that he had a bad officer on his hands and sat on it for months and months and months,” Thomas said.

Attorney David Yates first brought the victim’s stories to light after the department had failed to act. A criminal case was not opened until pressure from the media and Louisville Metro Council members was applied. The FBI then opened a case that has yet to be resolved.

“They needed and deserved someone to believe in and fight for them, even when the odds were stacked against them,” Yates said. “I filed these cases on their behalf because it was the right thing to do.”

Yates, who was the Metro Council President at the time, stepped down after the County Attorney Mike O’Connell claimed it was a conflict of interest.

The allegations in the civil suit included group sex parties, taking sexual photos and videos, and having sexual relations with underage cadets and enticing them to do so. There were also allegations that the department and administration purposely did not pursue further action and destroyed documents related to the case.

Thomas was not able to depose Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer or Deputy Mayor Ellen Hessen about what they knew of the allegations when they first surfaced. According to previous depositions, Hessen was briefed about the case once the FBI’s task force officers got involved.

Attorneys also believed that others in the department, including the LMPD Explorer Program’s director, former Major Curtis Flaherty, covered up the allegations. Flaherty was never charged, but he was still the subject of a federal investigation.

Flaherty was promoted by Conrad to Major during the course of the investigation. He later retired from the department.

“Who was looking over somebody else’s back?” Thomas asked. “The one person who was in charge of investigating what officers were doing wrong, was the guy who was in charge of the officers who were doing the wrongdoing. That is Curtis Flaherty.”

Fischer launched his own review of the case and hired former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey as special investigator into allegations about the program. Harvey concluded several mistakes were made, but stopped short of stating there was an effort to cover the case up.

“Since the beginning of the Explorers case, my ultimate goal has been to find the truth and get justice for the victims,” said Mayor Greg Fischer in a press release.

“It’s our hope that this settlement brings some closure for those involved,” Fischer said. “We must continue our work to ensure the appalling interactions that led to this investigation never happen again.”

“I’m relieved that after all these years, they will get some level of justice,” Yates said.

Now all eyes are on the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office to see if more criminal charges are delivered. The FBI’s investigation remains open.

The settlement of the case does not prohibit the victims from speaking about their experience, the settlement or the case.

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