CARROLLTON, Ky.—Adam Horine leaned on the courtroom podium, wept and begged.
He called himself “crazy,” but insisted that he could represent himself. He said he was dying.
The April 22 hearing before Carroll District Judge Elizabeth Chandler stood out from Horine’s many other court appearances over the years for an array of mostly minor offenses.
In a rambling, sometimes confusing dialogue with the judge, the 31-year-old defendant said, his voice cracking, that he loved Kentucky but “they are trying to force me out.”
Horine was absolutely right. Just hours later, he’d be embarking — alone — on a 900-mile, one-way bus trip to Florida, courtesy of the Carrollton Police Department.
“I should be in the hospital,” Horine had pleaded with the judge during the hearing. “I have mental illness and I say things I shouldn’t say. But I would never hurt anybody. I never have.”
Chandler responded that Horine looked sick, according to a video of the hearing obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. And she questioned his competence to enter a plea to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and making verbal threats.
She ordered an immediate mental-health examination and transport to Eastern State Hospital in Lexington for a more thorough psychiatric assessment.
Within hours, a social worker’s preliminary evaluation at the Carroll County Detention Center determined that Horine was hearing voices, felt suicidal, was not sleeping, had no medication and wanted to hurt “certain people.”
The next step was Eastern State, where Horine could receive the treatment that the social worker and the judge thought he so urgently needed.
But Carrollton police had a very different plan for Adam Horine. They wanted him out of town and out of the state. They wanted to rid themselves of this tormented petty criminal. They wanted to make him someone else’s problem.
So, just hours after the hearing, a police officer acting at the direction of Chief Michael Willhoite, plucked Horine from jail. Officer Ron Dickow drove him 50 miles in a police cruiser to Louisville. Arriving at the Greyhound terminal downtown before dawn, Dickow bought Horine a one-way bus ticket to Florida with money provided by the chief.
Dickow forked over the change — about $18 — to Horine. Then he sent the emotionally troubled man away, on a 28-hour solitary bus ride to the Sunshine State’s west coast.
“This just doesn’t happen. It’s not supposed to happen in our system,” said David Harris, associate dean and a professor of criminal law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
The move seemingly defies basic, accepted 21st-century police practices. It also raises questions about why police dispatched this distressed man with pending criminal charges out of state, and whether or not they intentionally ignored the judge’s orders, according to a KyCIR review of court and jail documents and interviews with two dozen local and state officials and criminal-justice experts.
Once Horine was charged with a crime and began his trek through the system, his fate should have remained in the hands of the court, Harris said.
“And to have a police officer come in and simply say, ‘No, we’re not having him get a mental-health evaluation, you’re just getting out of here. You’re too much trouble. We don’t want you here. You’re leaving.’ I’m sorry, that’s not allowed. They don’t have the power to do that.”
It’s unclear if police officials believed their maneuver would go undetected. Horine, after all, was a bit of a vagrant, bouncing between temporary homes, jail and jobs. Who would advocate for him?
Today, Horine is back in Kentucky and in the psychiatric hospital, just days away from his next court appearance. The Kentucky attorney general’s office is investigating the whole affair.
And in one more bizarre twist, the justice system that sent Horine to Florida had to charge him with a new crime in order to extradite him to Kentucky. The offense? Escape from jail, a felony.
Dogged by emotional problems from an early age, Horine was confined at least twice in mental hospitals. He got into legal trouble as a teen and quit school at 16, according to court records and his stepmother. His first encounter with adult court occurred in July 2002, at the age of 19, when he was charged with public drunkenness and being a minor in possession of alcohol.
More criminal charges followed, for offenses including theft, drugs, drunken driving and misdemeanor assault. He also lived in Florida for a time, several years ago. There, he burnished his criminal record with cases involving marijuana possession and attempted burglary.
Horine’s most recent arrest in Carroll County, the one that ultimately resulted in his shipment to Florida, involved a dust-up outside a grocery store just a block from the rundown boarding house where he lived. A police report of the incident details a confrontation involving Horine and a cab driver. Horine allegedly issued threats and was “cussing in public.” Off to jail he went.
“He can be a really sweet kid when he wants to be, when everything goes his way,” said his stepmother, Charlotte Horine, who added that Adam called her several times during his police-sponsored bus ride, and also from the psychiatric hospital.
“He’s not a bad person.”
Horine’s last moments in the Carroll County Detention Center are captured on a surveillance video. At about 3 a.m. on April 23, barely 14 hours after Judge Chandler ordered the Eastern State Hospital examination, Officer Dickow strolled into the jail.
In the video, Dickow chats with the deputies on duty, then slouches on a chair in the corner while waiting for Horine to be brought out. One of the deputies offers Dickow some documents. Dickow declines, saying, “No, I don’t need no paperwork.”
Horine emerges from his cell and greets Dickow with a friendly, “What’s up Ron? Me and you’s gonna have a nice little conversation on the way to the ‘crazy house’,” (an apparent reference to Eastern State Hospital).
Moments later, Dickow — perhaps because he knows the encounter is being recorded — puts his finger to his lips, as if signaling Horine to be quiet.
Horine questions why he’s in jail, telling Dickow that all he did was “threaten to kill a dog.”
Dickow tells Horine, “Let’s get out of here, then we’ll talk.”
As he and Dickow walk to the door, Horine refers to Dickow as “my favorite cop. Never handcuff(s) me.” And he asks, “Do I get to ride up front with you?” Dickow says no.
With that, inmate and officer venture into the night on an unusual, if not illegal, jaunt.
Among the documents left behind: an “inmate body receipt,” which is supposed to show where Horine was being taken, and why. Those spaces on the receipt, which Dickow signed, were left blank.
“It is mystifying how Mr. Horine would be taken from the jail and placed on a bus to Florida when there was a court order for him to be evaluated at Eastern (State) Hospital,” said Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan, who oversees the statewide public-defender program.
In an April 30th letter obtained by KyCIR, Carroll County Attorney Nick Marsh told the state attorney general’s office that Dickow said he had been “advised” by Chief Willhoite to remove Horine from the jail, take him to Louisville and buy him the bus ticket to Florida.
“This was in direct violation of two court orders” by Chandler directing that Horine be evaluated and then transported to Eastern State, Marsh said. He asked the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into “allegations of misconduct and other criminal violations of Chief Mike Willhoite and Officer Ron Dickow.”
Marsh’s request has since been granted. The Campbell County attorney’s office will serve as special prosecutor for Horine’s pending misdemeanor case.
In addition to the allegations outlined in Marsh’s letter, there are other indications that Willhoite played a key role in the scheme to get Horine out of town.
Before Horine appeared in court for his April 22 arraignment, Willhoite approached Judge Chandler in her office, as well as public defender Serah Wiedenhoefer, in a back hallway near the courtroom, to suggest permanently booting Horine to Florida in exchange for resolving the criminal charges, according to sources with knowledge of the encounters.
Chandler, the sources said, told Willhoite to talk to the county attorney, who was then prosecuting the case. Wiedenhoefer agreed to convey Willhoite’s offer to Horine, even though she didn’t represent him.
Both Chandler, who has removed herself from the case, and Wiedenhoefer, declined to be interviewed by KyCIR.
It’s unclear where the idea of shipping Horine out of state came from. The practice of sending undesirables away — often called banishment — dates back centuries and isn’t unheard of in Kentucky and elsewhere today. The maneuver is not only widely criticized, but many criminal-law experts say it’s flat-out illegal for a judge to order someone out against his or her will.
By his own admission, Horine was amenable at one point in the hearing to the idea of leaving Kentucky because it struck him as preferable to spending more time in jail. But the proposed deal unraveled once he behaved erratically before the judge.
Hours after Horine boarded the bus for his long trip south, his picture remained on the detention center’s website. As a result, the judge and other local officials thought he was still incarcerated in Carroll County, one of Kentucky’s smallest, situated at the juncture of the Ohio and Kentucky rivers, midway between Louisville and Cincinnati. Chandler issued an additional court order on April 24, demanding police take Horine to the hospital that same day.
The truth concerning Horine’s actual whereabouts began to emerge on April 27, when Officer Dickow disclosed what he had done, sources said. County Attorney Marsh called the attorney general’s office the following day to request the investigation, which is ongoing.
Campbell District Judge Karen Thomas, who is now handling Horine’s case, has scheduled a hearing for June 3 and notified key police and jail officials to be present. Those officials all refused to be interviewed by KyCIR.
Officer Dickow referred a reporter’s inquiry to City Attorney Ed James, who replied through his secretary that he would not be calling back.
Chief Willhoite, reached at his home, initially begged off an interview, saying he’d just finished mowing his grass and had to rush off to a baseball game. He pledged to call back after consulting with his attorney. He never responded.
Matt Walls, the deputy jailer on duty at the time of Horine’s police pick-up, refused to comment.
After Jailer Mike Humphrey did not respond to several telephone calls and emails requesting comment, a reporter went to the Carroll County Detention Center and asked to speak with Humphrey. He appeared in the lobby just long enough launch into a brief, angry tirade.
“I have no comment for you. I don’t care for you,” he said. “I will have nothing to do with you and I have no comments farther than that.”
He then stalked back inside, refusing to answer questions.
As for Adam Horine: He arrived safely in Florida and did not harm himself or anyone else. He was arrested in Gulfport, near St. Petersburg, earlier this month after the Kentucky attorney general’s office obtained a warrant charging him with — of all things — second-degree escape, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
According to the warrant, Horine left the jail and the state “by bus, with the full knowledge that he was under court order to be transported to Eastern State Hospital.”
But Horine was hardly the only one who knew that. Still unresolved are the consequences police and jail officials might face for their roles in the caper.
Kevin Calhoon, the attorney general’s investigator who requested the warrant, declined to comment.
Horine was brought back to Kentucky on May 18 and taken to Eastern State Hospital. This time, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office handled the transport. And the county wants reimbursement of $2,470 from Carrollton police for the cost of bringing Horine back.
Harris, the University of Pittsburgh law professor, said officials’ focus now should be not on Horine’s “escape” but on those who planned and executed his release.
‘The real question here is not whether or not Mr. Horine ‘escaped’, because we know that he was in Florida because the police officer put him on a bus there, after getting Horine released,” Harris said. “There’s no way any jury would find him guilty of an escape in those circumstances.
“The important question is, how and why the police got Mr. Horine released and sent him out of the jurisdiction, in the face of existing charges, obvious signs of mental distress and a court order for a mental health examination.”
The police department’s handling of the case not only deprived Horine of needed psychiatric care, Harris said, but also “just dumps him on the street.”
WFPL News Reporter Erica Peterson contributed to this report. Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6533.