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 through threats, money, and drugs.
Between 2010 and May 2017, Nolan, 70, is alleged to have taken advantage of his victims' drug addictions and other vulnerabilities, 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 jailed Nolan 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 according to Campbell County authorities there are "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.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, which has been reporting heavily on this case, has obtained some details from court filings though. Journalist Scott Wartman 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. She claims that Nolan frequently demanded that she drink alcohol and do drugs before forcing himself on her, sometimes even procuring heroin for her so he could record her shooting up.
Another victim grappling with drug addiction says that she received income, food, and transportation costs from Nolan in exchange for sexual acts. A search warrant obtained by Wartman 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 the Associated Press 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 claimed that the charges were part of a vendetta against Nolan stemming from a defamation lawsuit he filed against local conservatives running the site GOPFacts.org, an exposé of local Tea Party leaders for critically-thinking Republicans. The site called Nolan, who was a prominent member of the local right wing and who served as campaign chair for President Donald Trump in the state of Kentucky, a racist and reposted images he had put on Facebook of Ku Klux Klan members. The photos got him fired from his position as state chair of the Boxing and Wrestling Commission by Gov. Matt Bevin.
"I would call it a conspiracy," Grubbs said, referring to the many charges against Nolan. She also attested in court hearings that some of the victims are worried about Nolan and have tried to check in with him.
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 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.