CARROLLTON, Ky. — A county grand jury on Monday indicted the Carrollton police chief and a veteran officer for allegedly springing a mentally ill man from jail, putting him on a bus and banishing him to Florida earlier this year.
Police Chief Michael Willhoite, 48, and Officer Ron Dickow, 50, are charged with two felony counts, complicity to commit kidnapping and custodial interference, and also official misconduct, a misdemeanor. If convicted, they face up to five years in prison on each felony count, and a year imprisonment on the misdemeanor charge.
Willhoite’s indictment leaves Carroll County in the unusual position of having its two top law-enforcement officials facing criminal charges. Sheriff Jamie Kinman already is awaiting trial on charges of official misconduct and tampering with physical evidence. Kinman has pleaded not guilty and remains in office.
Following their indictments, Willhoite and Dickow also pleaded not guilty. But over the objections of their attorneys, Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe directed that the officers not perform law-enforcement functions or be involved with police-related paperwork while under indictment. The 10-member Carrollton police department is now down 20 percent of its workforce.
The officers’ attorneys refused to comment after the court session.
Willhoite’s and Dickow’s roles in the banishment of Adam Horine sparked outrage across the state following a report in May from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. (Read “Police in Kentucky Town Ship Mentally Ill Man to Florida, Defying Judge’s Order“)
Records and jail surveillance video show that Dickow had removed Horine, a troubled 31-year-old mentally and physically ill man, from the Carroll County Detention Center five weeks earlier in violation of a judge’s order.
The previous day, District Judge Elizabeth Chandler had ordered police to immediately transfer Horine to Eastern State Hospital in Lexington for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Horine, who had been jailed on two misdemeanor charges, acknowledged to Chandler that he had mental problems.
Instead, Dickow — who later said he was acting at Willhoite’s direction — took Horine out of jail before dawn, drove him to Louisville, gave him about $18 and put him on a bus for a 900-mile, one-way trip to Florida, KyCIR found.
Authorities later charged Horine with escape in order to ensure his return to Kentucky. Horine’s circuitous journey through the criminal justice system later grew more complex. Authorities returned Horine to Kentucky and took him to Eastern State. He later surfaced at St. Elizabeth Hospital in northern Kentucky. Police issued a summons on July 1 accusing him of groping an incapacitated female patient. Horine was then transferred back to Eastern State for mental health treatment.
His banishment sparked a criminal investigation by the Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office, which presented the case to the grand jury on Monday. Representatives of Conway’s office declined comment after court.
Carrollton Mayor Robb Adams attended the proceedings and sat next to Willhoite and his wife as the judge read the indictments. Dickow’s attorney, Rob Riley of LaGrange, told Judge Summe that Adams was “showing support” for the two officers. Adams declined comment.
Summe, who was appointed to hear the case after two other judges recused themselves, released Willhoite and Dickow without bond and set the case for trial on Dec. 1.
The kidnapping charge against Willhoite and Dickow asserts they “unlawfully restrained” Horine to interfere with “a governmental or political function.” The custodial interference count alleges that the officers took Horine out of jail and “kept him from the lawful custody” of Eastern State.
And the official misconduct charge accuses them of violating the judge’s initial order to take Horine to Eastern State.
Willhoite and Dickow also face possible contempt of court charges. A different judge, Campbell District Judge Karen Thomas, is set to hear that matter separately later this month. She already has promised jail terms for the two men if she finds them guilty.
Charlotte Horine, Adam Horine’s stepmother, said on Monday that she was unaware of the indictments and had no comment.
Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6533.