Whitesburg KY

Judge in bid-rigging case may step down


A federal judge may be removing himself from a bid-rigging case involving a former state official and a road builder.

U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves said he may be required to remove himself from the case because a former law firm colleague worked on a case involving a company owned by defendant Leonard Lawson in 1983. Reeves says he did not have any personal involvement in the case.

“My initial impression was that recusal would be required,” Reeves said during a court hearing Tuesday.

The case before Reeves involves allegations that Lawson, former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert and Lawson aide Brian Billings conspired to steer about $130 million worth of state construction contracts to Lawson’s companies. It was set to go to trial later this month, but Reeves indefinitely postponed it.

Reeves said he had worked for the same firm as attorney John Reed, who worked on a case representing a Lawson-owned company in 1983. Reeves said he did not work on the specific case, but acknowledged he’s known Reed “for a long time” and they have worked on different cases together.

Reeves said he was not aware of the potential conflict of interest until last week. Attorneys for both sides have seven days to file opinions on the matter, the judge said.

A status hearing is scheduled for June 25.

The trial may have been postponed anyway.

Last week, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against the three defendants, combining two conspiracy counts but not adding new charges. Defense attorneys have asked for the superseding indictment to be dismissed, claiming a “vindictive prosecution” against their clients.

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