In a case that has shaken Northern Kentucky, former Judge Tim Nolan is facing over 100 years of prison time if convicted on charges of human trafficking, prostitution, rape, evidence tampering, and unlawful transactions with a minor.
According to The Associated Press, 17 women, five of them minors, have alleged that Nolan coerced them into having sex with him over a seven-year period using threats, money, and drugs.
The alleged crimes were reportedly committed between 2010 and May 2017. Nolan, 70, was accused of taking advantage of his victims' drug addictions and other vulnerabilities for extended periods of time, forcing them into unwanted sexual encounters by wielding his professional and social power as a weapon.
“The defendant used money, drugs, housing, threats to call the probation office, and violent acts, as means to coerce, deceive and force these women to engage in commercial sexual activity, for months and sometimes years,” Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley wrote in a court filing.
Judge Elizabeth Chandler placed Nolan in a cell in Campbell County on a $750,000 bail, calling him "potentially a danger to the community." The exact details of the case remain muddy as Campbell County authorities cite "too many moving parts" in the ongoing investigation to release viable information at the moment. Police Chief Craig Sorrell was particularly reluctant to share details due to potential interference by Nolan with the victims, hence the additional charge of tampering with evidence.
Nevertheless, some details have emerged and given the public insight into exactly how horrific the situation potentially is. The Cincinnati Enquirer, which has been reporting heavily on this case, wrote that one of Nolan's victims, who struggles with heroin addiction and called herself "essentially homeless," told law enforcement that the former judge manipulated her into having sex with him over 50 times, often demanding she drink alcohol and do drugs beforehand. She also said that Nolan would even buy her heroin and record her shooting up.
Another victim revealed that she was also addicted to heroin and received income, food, and transportation costs from Nolan in exchange for sexual acts. A search warrant stated that she felt "100 percent coerced and did not want to do what she did."
As prosecutors continue to build evidence against Nolan, the defense also prepares to prove the former judge's innocence, apparently by using the Constitution. Nolan's attorney, Margo Grubbs, told reporters that they will focus on the constitutionality of Kentucky's human trafficking statute and are "pursuing the path of vindication vigorously."
What this defense actually amounts to will remain vague until trial, but the spin certainly raises some alarm bells as to how exactly Nolan's acts will be framed. Will he deny them outright, or seek to justify them?
Grubbs also attested in court hearings that some of the victims have tried to reach out to Nolan to see how he is doing. She called the charges part of a politically-motivated vendetta stemming from a defamation lawsuit that Nolan, a fixture in the local Tea Party who was campaign chair for President Donald Trump in the state of Kentucky, reportedly filed against local conservatives running the site GOPFacts.org. The site, formed as an exposé of local Tea Party leaders for critically-thinking Republicans, called Nolan a racist and reposted images he had published on Facebook of Ku Klux Klan members. One photo in particular got him fired from his position as state chair of the Boxing and Wrestling Commission by Gov. Matt Bevin, but of course it didn't get him fired from the Trump campaign.
"I would call it a conspiracy," Grubbs said, referring to the mass of charges pressed against Nolan.
Mike Combs, one of the founders of the site, fired back that Grubbs' accusation was a sterling example of "alternative facts" and "fake news." Indeed, Nolan's line of defense is eerily similar to that of his political idol, Trump.
It's an already convoluted case, but it sinks even more into the weeds due to Nolan's legacy that stems back to the 1970s and 1980s. He's known in the community as a tough "law-and-order" judge and has friends across the legal and political board.
Furthermore, his daughter is the Campbell County circuit court clerk, and as a result, the attorney general has had to appoint special judges and prosecutors to handle the case in order to avoid severe conflicts of interest.
All in all, if Nolan wasn't currently in jail, he'd fit right in with the current administration.