Attorney General Says Accepting Pardons Means Waiving Fifth Amendment Right

By Anne Marshall

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) -- An investigation into illegal hiring practices by Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration is far from over, despite Fletcher issuing blanket amnesty to anyone who was or will be indicted on charges. The governor maintains the investigation is a political move by the attorney general. As WAVE 3's Anne Marshall reports, the grand jury is still meeting to hear testimony.

Three weeks ago Gov. Fletcher issued blanket pardon intended to lay to rest Attorney General Greg Stumbo's investigation into alleged abuses of the merit system.

But it turns out the blanket has only led to more sheets -- sheets of paper that is.

A stack of paperwork a foot thick includes only some of the court motions filed as part of the grand jury's investigation in the last four months.

On Tuesday, despite this Executive Order to pardon anyone indicted, there were more filings in Franklin Circuit Court, including one that says anyone who invoked their Fifth Amendment right before the grand jury could be recalled to testify.

Then there's the Attorney General office's response to a motion to dismiss cases against the nine indicted officials within the Fletcher administration.

Assistant Attorney General Scott Crawford-Sutherland says if all nine men accept their pardons in open court they may land behind these closed doors again, because by accepting a pardon, they give up their Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

"Even in the case of a blanket amnesty, someone needs to accept that pardon," Sutherland said.

It's likely that defense attorneys will argue their clients still can invoke their Fifth Amendment rights because this case may be turned over to federal investigators.

For now grand jurors continue to review 300,000 documents so they too can file paperwork -- a public report on their findings.

"It will be thorough, detailed with all evidence brought before them," Sutherland said.

There's also the possibility of one more indictment -- against the governor himself. By not including himself under the blanket pardons, in time, a sheet of paper with the Gov. Fletcher's name could come to rest in Franklin County Court.

A defense lawyer for one of the indicted individuals says despite the new filings Tuesday, for all intents and purposes the case is dismissed, so it's not necessary for any clients to accept a pardon in person or in writing.

As far as any other indictments within the administration, prosecutors say that's unlikely because of that blanket pardon.

The grand jury is expected to reconvene on Friday, September 16th.

Online Reporter: Anne Marshall

Online Producer: Michael Dever