Three grand jurors in the Breonna Taylor case filed a petition with the state House of Representatives on Friday, objecting to the conduct of Attorney General Daniel Cameron and calling for his impeachment.
This marks the third impeachment petition filed against a state official in recent weeks, following petitions filed against Gov. Andy Beshear and state Rep. Robert Goforth, which are now before a newly created impeachment committee in the House.
A press release indicated the attorney for three of the grand jurors in the Taylor case signed the petition on their behalf in order to protect their identities.
The petition alleges Cameron breached the public trust and failed to comply with his duties by misrepresenting the findings of the grand jury in the Taylor case.
“The Grand Jurors did not choose this battle,” stated Kevin Glogower, the attorney for the three grand jurors. “This battle chose them.”
“These are randomly selected citizens who were compelled to sit on a grand jury and were terribly misused by the most powerful law enforcement official in Kentucky. It is truly a testament to the Kentucky Constitution that they are able to be here today and to expose injustice and demand public accountability.”
Spokespersons for Cameron did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the petition.
House Speaker David Osborne confirmed lawmakers had “received notice of another petition for impeachment,” but said in a statement he would “reserve further comment until our attorneys review it and the committee on committees has an opportunity to act.”
The Committee on Committees will determine what committee will consider the petition. Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who chairs the impeachment committee, said Friday, January 29, 2021, he assumed his committee would get it once it’s officially filed, which cannot happen until legislators return to Frankfort on Feb. 2.
Nemes said he had not yet read the petition, but that it would likely go through the same process as the others, in which the attorney general and petitioners have a chance to reply.
The petitioners seeking to impeach Beshear allege his COVID-19 orders violated the rights of Kentuckians, while those seeking to impeach Goforth say he should be removed from office because of his arrest and indictment last year for allegedly strangling his wife with an Ethernet cord.
Cameron was a special prosecutor in the Taylor case, investigating her fatal shooting by Louisville police officers who were at the apartment to serve a search warrant.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot as officers broke down Taylor’s door in the early morning hours of March 13 and struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. Walker has said he didn’t realize it was police knocking.
Mattingly and two other officers — Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison — returned 32 shots, spraying the apartment and hitting Taylor six times, killing her in the hallway.
The grand jury indicted Hankison following a presentation from Cameron’s office.
His charges, however, are for bullets that traveled into a neighboring apartment. No one has been charged for Taylor’s death.
In the petition and verified affidavit submitted to the House, the petitioners state that at his Sept. 23 press conference announcing the grand jury decision, Cameron “said his office presented ‘all of the information’ and walked the Grand Jury through ‘every homicide offense’ before the Grand Jury came to its conclusion.”
But according to those grand jurors, “neither Cameron nor anyone from his office mentioned any homicide offense to the grand jury. Not only were no homicide offenses presented as alleged, but no charges of any kind were also presented to the Grand Jury other than the three wanton endangerment charges against Detective Hankinson.”
Less than a week after the September press conference, an anonymous grand juror filed a motion seeking to allow jurors to speak freely about the case.
That juror accused Cameron of using the grand jurors “as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility” for his prosecutorial decisions, which were quickly and widely scrutinized.
In a statement released only after that grand juror’s motion, Cameron’s office clarified “the only charge recommended (to the grand jury) was wanton endangerment” for Hankison.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell ruled in October that the grand jurors could speak out about the proceedings, and two more grand jurors have come forward to express their displeasure with Cameron’s handling of the case.
The impeachment petition goes on to allege that Cameron “deceived the American people and the citizens of this Commonwealth with regard to his office’s handling and involvement” in the Taylor investigation. He, it alleges, “misled the public” when he said the grand jury agreed that police were “justified” in returning fire.
The petition asks for the House to remove Cameron from office and disqualify him “from holding any office of honor, trust or profit” within Kentucky because he “lied to the Grand Jury by excluding information and charges available to them, then lied to the public about what he had told the Grand Jury.”
In addition to the three grand jurors, several other Kentuckians signed onto the petition, including Jennifer Smith, Cameron French and Brett Darling, according to attorney Anna Whites, who, along with Glogower, is representing the petitioners. She is also representing the Goforth petitioners.
Other allegations in the petition
The petitioners also call for Cameron’s impeachment for “incitement and support of insurrection and violence,” citing his involvement with a Republican attorney general organization that financed robocalls to protest at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The Rule of Law Defense Fund — a fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, where Cameron serves on the executive committee — called on people to march on the Capitol that day and called on Congress “to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue the fight to protect the integrity of our election.”
A deadly riot and insurrection took place as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and delayed the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory as both chambers were evacuated.
The petition also alleges Cameron misspent taxpayer funds and abused his office by joining a lawsuit challenging ballots in Pennsylvania, which “created baseless doubt about the 2020 Presidential election by seeking to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters.”
Two days after Biden was declared by the winner of the presidential race in November, Cameron signed an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit challenging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to allow mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if they arrived in the mail by the following Friday.
Claiming this legal challenge “invites other states to challenge Kentucky’s voting,” the petition alleges Cameron did so “to promote his own political aspirations.”
Glogower told The Courier-Journal he wasn’t sure a supermajority of Republican legislators in Frankfort would give the case the deference it deserves, but he said to continue to talk about the case, review how it was handled, and hold people accountable is important.
“We were happy to help in the role that we could to continue to try to put the appropriate accountability in the right place for how the Breonna Taylor investigation and grand jury presentation was handled,” Glogower said. “Mr. Cameron continues to blatantly disregard the truth.”
The House impeachment committee created earlier this month to take up the petition to remove Beshear from office is scheduled to have its next meeting Wednesday.
The last Kentucky official to be impeached is Ward “Butch” Burnette, the commissioner of agriculture in 1991, who was convicted by a Franklin Circuit Court jury of complicity to theft by deception.
Following his impeachment by the House, he resigned hours before the Senate trial was to begin, and the chamber then voted to terminate impeachment proceedings.
Lawmakers in 2020 formed an impeachment committee to investigate Kenton County Family Court Judge Dawn Gentry, but it was unable to complete the probe before the legislative session ended. She was removed from office before the General Assembly resumed this year.
The only statewide elected official in Kentucky’s history to be impeached and removed from office by the Senate was the infamous James “Honest Dick” Tate in 1888. Tate was a longtime state treasurer who stole roughly $200,000 in state funds and fled, never to be found again.