- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Evidence “omitted purposefully” and conflicting testimony from two City of Lawrenceburg police officers resulted in the dismissal of drug trafficking charges against a Lawrenceburg man Monday in Anderson Circuit Court.
“I’m deeply concerned that critical information, really exculpatory information in favor of the defendant, was omitted purposely by the police department,” Circuit Court Judge Charles Hickman said moments before dismissing cocaine trafficking charges against Shanta Bixler, 31, of 505 East Woodford St.
“A grave miscarriage of justice could have occurred in this case.”
Hickman’s response followed the conflicting testimony of Lawrenceburg police Det. Jeremy Cornish and former officer Josh Satterly, who is training to become state trooper.
Both officers originally reported that they intended to arrest Bixler after sending a confidential informant into a Warbler Drive residence to purchase crack cocaine from him.
Neither mentioned a traffic stop that occurred that day when Satterly pulled over a vehicle he thought Bixler was in.
Satterly testified Monday that he could have cited the driver for traffic violations, but instead let the man go in order to have him offer Bixler a ride to Frankfort.
Satterly stopped the driver again a short time later and found Bixler and crack cocaine inside the vehicle.
Satterly said he didn’t report the first traffic stop after discussing the issue with Cornish, but in preparing for the trial, realized he should have.
“I have good instructors at the [state police] academy and took my case to them,” Satterly said. “To be honest, they told me I jacked it up. I should have included the first stop, but I let it go for the purpose of retrieving more crack cocaine.”
Satterly said he then approached the Commonwealth’s Attorney Laura Donnell’s office and told her about the first stop.
“My integrity means everything to me,” Satterly said, “and I’m not going to leave out nothing.
“I stopped him for the sole purpose of having crack cocaine, but Mr. Bixler wasn’t in there. So he went down the street, picked up Bixler and I stopped him again.”
When pressed about why he didn’t include the first traffic stop in his report, Satterly said he takes responsibility for doing so but added that Cornish, who is now a detective with the police department, told him not to.
“Jeremy advised me not to put it in there,” Satterly said.
Cornish then took the stand and was asked by Hickman why the first traffic stop was not included in the report.
“That was officer Satterly’s case,” said Cornish. “I have no idea why he wouldn’t put that in there or whether he left it out.”
“Did he discuss that first stop with you?” asked Hickman.
“No, I never discussed it with Satterly,” Cornish replied.
Cornish also testified that during the first traffic stop, he told the driver he wasn’t worried about his expired license tags and asked him “what can you do for us?”
Cornish continued: “He said, ‘I’ll tell you what. There’s a black guy at that house I just left and he’s got quite a bit of crack cocaine on him right now and wants a ride to Frankfort. You can pull me over if you want to.’ I told him I’m fine with that.”
Cornish was then pressed by Bixler’s attorney, public defender Scott Getsinger, as to why the name of an alleged witness to the confidential informant’s purchase was not turned over to his or Donnell’s office.
“My dealings had nothing to do with her,” said Cornish.
“But you weren’t in the residence and don’t know what happened, do you?” Getsinger responded.
“Only with a recorder and I have listened to the tape several times and heard a female in the background,” Cornish said.
Getsinger then made a motion to dismiss the charges against Bixler.
“Obviously, your honor, the truth hasn’t come out yet, but their stories are obviously different,” Getsinger said. “It bothers me that the first stop was excluded on purpose and the total transaction was omitted from the report. The alleged witness was not mentioned in the report, and I believe those items were deliberately left out of discovery.”
“That is a deep concern to me as a gatekeeper and a deep concern to the Commonwealth … they were basically sand-bagged,” said Hickman, referring to Donnell’s office.
Hickman went on, saying that once the officers were told of the crack cocaine inside the residence, there was no need to send the driver back to offer Bixler a ride to Frankfort.
“The easiest and simplest way, according to the US Constitution, instead of playing this game with [the driver] that had information about cocaine at the residence, is get a search warrant. Then everything would have been kosher.
“I’m extremely concerned about officer Cornish’s statement to [the driver] of what can you do for us,” Hickman continued. “He stated it wasn’t his stop, yet interjects himself into this situation, then says he doesn’t know why that wasn’t included in the report.”
Following the hearing, Donnell said her office immediately notified Bixler’s defense attorney about the first traffic stop after learning about it from Satterly.
“Any time we come into possession of evidence, whether it provides a defense or makes our case strong, we are under duty to share it with defense and that’s what we did,” Donnell said. “Justice always prevails, I can tell you that, and we’re in place to protect the rights of everyone.”