Stengel explains decision to drop appeal in Covington case

Daniel Covington (source: Donna Covington)
Daniel Covington (source: Donna Covington)
Police investigate at 2nd and Liberty streets in 2010
Police investigate at 2nd and Liberty streets in 2010
Dave Stengel
Dave Stengel
Donna Covington
Donna Covington

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney calls it a no-win situation from the beginning and there's nothing more he can do. WAVE 3 was the first to report that the Commonwealth was dropping its appeal in the death of a former Cards football player Daniel Covington. The man who shot Covington, former baseball player Isaiah Howes, will never face criminal charges.

"You can't imagine how disappointed we are," said Donna Covington, Daniel's mom.

Mrs. Covington does not like it but Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel said from the start he believed Daniel's shooting was done in self-defense.

"He chased them down several blocks away and then really put a whipping on two of them," Stengel said. "We have the photos."

Daniel Covington died after being shot at 2nd and Liberty Streets early on the morning of September 16, 2010. Police say Cunningham dove into the SUV of Isaiah Howes and started assaulting him and his brother, Joseph Vessels, believing one of them yelled racial slurs at him. Howes fired his gun, killing Covington.

"This started with racial slurs and remarks," Mrs. Covington said. "Daniel Covington would have never gotten out of that car at 2nd and Liberty for no reason."

"At the beginning, there was a racial epithet thrown at Mr. Covington, which he had a right to be outraged by, but he still doesn't have a right to beat the snot out of anybody over it," Stengel said. "People on the street would argue about that, but the law does not give him that right."

Even so, Stengel said after talking to Mrs. Covington and her lawyer, Steve Pence, he agreed to let a grand jury decide if Howes should face charges.

"She convinced me to take it to the grand jury because we thought we were dead on arrival, but then the judge said, 'Nope, you're dead on arrival,'" said Stengel.

To buy time, Stengel said he filed notice that he would appeal Judge Barry Willett's decision giving Howes immunity from any prosecution, including presenting the case to a grand jury. But in the end, Stengel said he couldn't find any grounds on which to appeal.

Stengel doesn't like the law that gave Howes immunity, but said it is the law.

"I think the grand jury would have done the same thing with it," Stengel said. "I frankly have no doubt they would have."

But for Daniel's mom, that's not good enough.

"Obviously I believe a crime has occurred, and I want Isaiah Howes held accountable for his actions," Mrs. Covington said. "In the case where someone's shot down in the streets of a city like Louisville, that the least that could be done is the evidence could be heard."

Stengel said the Kentucky law granting Howes immunity also likely means he won't face any civil suit in state court.

Howes' attorney, Bart Adams, said Monday afternoon that Howes is sorry for what happened but he is relieved he will not face criminal charges.

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