The jury trial against retired Hopkinsville Police Officer Jefferson Alexander, who is charged with first-degree perjury, continued Tuesday morning as former Hopkinsville City Councilmember Ann Cherry continued to testify as well as several other witnesses being called to the stand.
Alexander is accused of providing false or misleading testimony during a Grand Jury hearing that led to the indictment of Ann Cherry in 2012.
The Grand Jury indicted Alexander on his perjury charge in March 2019 following an FBI investigation into the 2012 case.
According to New Era archives, the Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney at the time in 2012, Lynn Pryor, questioned Alexander as a witness before the grand jury in August of 2012, and while sworn under oath, Alexander allegedly provided false or misleading testimony, that led Cherry to being charged with tampering with a witness, tampering with public records and second-degree official misconduct.
The Hopkinsville Police Department alleged that Cherry had hindered HPD’s investigation of the “Southside Prowler” case, which involved a man who committed a string of burglaries and sexually-related crimes.
HPD additionally stated that she used her status as a council member to obtain information and then subsequently hindered its investigation. HPD also made accusations that Cherry had convinced a victim in the prowler case to change her description of the prowler from a white male to a black male.
Day two of the trial began as Cherry continued her testimony for several hours, a large portion of which consisted of the cross examination by the defense in the case.
However, prior to her cross-examination, Special Prosecutor Jim Lesousky directly asked her if she had tampered with a witness or with public records, to which she denied.
The cross-examination by defense attorney Eric Eaton focused on inconsistencies in Cherry’s testimony Monday compared to previous statements she made to police, victims or witnesses involved in the case.
One of those major inconsistencies Eaton focused on was that Cherry never made any mention during Monday’s portion of the trial that she had shown a picture of Billy Ray Sanders, a black man who had been charged with burglary and theft-related crimes earlier that year, to victims in the case.
Eaton also presented the jury with emails shared between Cherry and Clayton Sumner, who was a Hopkinsville Police Captain at the time.
In those emails, Sumner told Cherry that he did not believe Sanders to be the prowler.
Despite that, Cherry continued to show the photo of Sanders to the people in her neighborhood stating that she believed him to be the prowler.
Eaton then asked if she had thought about what the repercussions could be regarding her actions of doing so.
“Isn’t it true that you were just so caught up in conducting your own investigation of what happened you didn’t stop to think about how this would affect Mr. Sanders, the people in Mr. Sanders’ community, his family or the police investigation — you didn’t consider that because you were just interested in verifying with (the victim) whether or not this prowler was Mr. Sanders,” Eaton said to Cherry.
“You didn’t stop to consider any of those things did you?”
“No,” she said in response.
As Eaton continued in his cross exam, he emphasized several times with Cherry the difficulty of answering long, compound questions after she shared her confusion with several of his questions.
Eaton acknowledged that he had asked some compound and difficult questions, which he reiterated were similar to the questions Alexander was asked during the Grand Jury presentation against Cherry.
Eaton took those opportunities to reiterate that Alexander may have not fully understood the compound questions and answered them based on what he believed to be true.
Eaton focused on that issue several more times with the second witness in the case, FBI Special Agent Sean Miller, who was the FBI agent that investigated the case against Alexander, during his cross-examination after he had also continued to ask compound questions.
However, prior to Miller’s cross-exam, Lesousky questioned Miller on how his investigation into Alexander’s alleged perjury began.
After briefly explaining that he began the investigation after he had received a complaint regarding Alexander’s statements during the grand jury presentation, Miller shared that he and his FBI group of investigators considered the history between Cherry and former HPD Chief Guy Howie.
“I was looking at all possible angles like we do in the FBI — was there any political or public corruption, is there anything else, what else is there, was he being told to do something — because it was known to many people that Howie and Cherry just did not like each other,” Miller said.
“It was obvious in the civil dispositions (or timeline) that both the prosecutor (Pryor) and Chief Howie said their intent of this whole thing was to get Ann Cherry to stop meddling with police investigations. That was the whole point.”
Miller continued to acknowledge that he could not find any indication that Alexander had any issues with Cherry prior to the grand jury presentation.
Miller also shared that when he presented Alexander’s case to Pryor, she had told him that she could not pursue the case as the perjury charge was a misdemeanor and the statute of limitations on misdemeanors, which is 12 months, had already passed.
However, Miller had learned later Pryor’s statement was not true and that perjury was a felony charge, which held no statute of limitations. At that time, he proceeded to bring the case back to the Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling, who had been newly elected at the time. Subsequently, Boling chose to pursue the case against Alexander.
During Miller’s cross-examination, Miller admitted to Eaton that he felt Alexander was trustworthy and seemed to be “upfront” when interviewed by Miller.
“(Alexander) was being honest with you,” Eaton asked Miller.
“I believe he was telling me everything --,” Miller said in response before Eaton interjected and said, “The truth.”
“Yeah, I believe he was,” Miller said.
“He didn’t have anything to hide while he was talking to you,” Eaton asked.
“No, I don’t believe so — well, I don’t know if he had something to hide. That’s between him and God, not me, but he seemed truthful,” Miller said.
Former HPD Chief Howie then took the stand to testify before the jury. Howie acknowledged during questioning by Lesousky that he and Cherry did share frustrations with each other, but argued that the charges brought against her were not born of those frustrations.
Howie stated that he had advised Cherry to stop “interfering with the case.”
Cherry testified Monday that she recalled that a “code red alert” had been sent out for the area of her neighborhood, which described the prowler as a white man.
After seeing the alert she attempted to call Howie and inform HPD that she, as well as one of the victims in the case, believed the man to be black and wanted the alert to be corrected.
She continued to testify that after viewing the footage a second time in a larger and clearer format following the alert, that she could then tell the man was actually white.
From there, she testified she attempted to correct her mistake with both the neighborhood watch and HPD.
According to her testimony, Cherry then shared a slew of emails between her and HPD regarding the description of the prowler as being white, which Howie testified was only provided to her due to her status as a council member.
Howie shared that a regular civilian would not normally have access to the information she was provided and then shared with her neighborhood watch group, which consisted of 94 individuals.
Howie continued to testify that she took those actions after he instructed her to stop interfering with the case.
Following that Howie stated that he had made attempts to meet with Cherry along with the mayor, city attorney and city administrator at the time in 2012 and inform her why her actions were possibly damaging to their investigation. He claimed she refused to attend that meeting.
Howie stated he was then instructed to bring the issue to the county attorney, who recommended he take the case to the commonwealth’s attorney, Lynn Pryor at the time.
Pryor then opened the case against Cherry and requested that HPD gather information as well as establish a timeline of her actions detailing her interference in the investigation, which was assigned to Alexander.
Former HPD Lt. Michael Felts was also called to testify Tuesday afternoon. Felts testified and confirmed much of what Howie testified to in regards to the timeline of Cherry’s alleged actions and how the investigation into those actions began, later leading to her indictment.
Felts’ testimony concluded day two of the trial. The trial is slated to continue Wednesday afternoon.
Deborah Bridges scolded the young boy.
He had not brought in wood for the fire or gotten water from the well so that he and his classmates would have something to drink.
But the scolding wasn’t real, and neither was the forgetfulness of the student, who is in Ann Bottoms’ class at Trigg County High School.
Instead the exercise was a lesson about the past, about what it was like to be a student in a classroom decades ago in the community.
“We believe when citizens are knowledgeable about the hardships in the past and how our ancestors overcame them, it gives us strength and courage to push through barriers and solve problems today,” noted Linda Wood, the secretary of the Trigg County Historical and Preservation Society that hosted the recent living history program.
Bottoms’ students took part in the program on Oct. 22 at Southern Academy, the historical society’s one-room schoolhouse that is near Wildcat Chevrolet.
Wood said the schoolhouse is original to Trigg County, and she explained that the society has a memorandum of agreement with Trigg County Public Schools to teach youth about the county’s history.
Through the partnership, the society works to show today’s youngsters what life was like in the past, how basic it was and how hard people had to work to survive every day.
Its members also hope the students come to realize “how we stand on the shoulders of our elders and how grateful we should be for the comfort and convenience we have today,” Wood said of the historical society’s efforts.
She noted that healthy communities take good care of their children, and she said the historical society enjoys being a part of that effort and is always ready to support the education of its local schoolchildren.
Twenty youngsters from Bottoms’ class took part in the recent program, learning about the curriculum and daily schedules for students in the 1800s and early 1900s; those earlier students attended one-room schools that offered classes for grades one to eight.
They were expected to bring water in from the well every morning and to get the fire going in the potbelly stove that sat in the middle of the classroom. The youngsters recited the Pledge of Allegiance, memorized Bible verses and sang hymns to start each school day.
They brought their lunches to school and would share their food with each other.
Some children had to go outside and water and tend to the horses they rode to school, and bathroom breaks also brought the youngsters outdoors — especially when their schoolhouses had no outhouses.
Bridges, a retired teacher and member of the society’s board of directors, explained to Bottoms’ students that most schoolhouses had one outhouse for boys and a second for girls. But she also noted that in instances when there were no outhouses, the students had to go behind the bushes to use the bathroom.
Dressed in vintage clothing, Bridges presented the program to the youth, and one of Bottoms’ students got an opportunity to assist Bridges with her presentation.
After Bridges pretended to scold him for not bringing in the water and firewood, the young boy explained to her that he had so many chores to do at home and didn’t have time to do his chores at school too.
“He was a natural!” Wood said of the student.
Bottoms said she wanted her students to learn about the history of education in Trigg County, and she noted that they learned “so much” from their visit to the schoolhouse.
“They had an outstanding time and were really excited as they shared what they learned,” Bottoms said of follow-up conversations about their field trip.
The teacher said she’d like to return to the schoolhouse in the spring so the youth can ask questions, tour the schoolroom and look at the grounds outside the school.
Additionally, she said she hopes to make the visits to the school an annual occasion.
Wood said Bottoms is welcome back.
“We are excited to support her and our schools and look forward to other visits,” said Wood, who noted that the students were extremely respectful and listened intently to the presentation given by Bridges.
Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Reader Day is coming up this week in Hopkinsville because reading to young children is proven to improve cognitive skills and help along the process of cognitive development. Reading allows children to make sense of what they read, hear and see. Reading also improves vocabulary and communication skills which essentially help children improve their concentration.
On Friday, November 5, The Christian County Literacy Council will celebrate Community Reader Day. Typically on Community Reader Day, leaders of the community in Christian County go into classrooms during reading time and read aloud each book chosen. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, this will be the second year the event will be held virtually.
Each reader of the community has been recorded for both audio and visual, which will be posted online via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CCLC42240/
“We typically have hundreds of volunteers for our annual reader day event,” said Literacy Council Vice President Melissa Dougherty. “This year the readers selected embody strong community leadership. We are happy to continue incorporating Community Reader Day despite COVID. The virtual event also works well for teachers in our school system. Teachers are able to show our kids these stories anytime, not just on November 5.”
Three books will be featured on Facebook for teachers to show in their classrooms during their reading times.
For pre-K through first grade, the book will be “I am Smart, I am Blessed, I can do ANYTHING!” by Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young. It will be presented by Tom Bell, Taylor Hayes and Steve Tribble. The second book will be for Grades 2-4 C”hange Sings (A Children’s Anthem)” by Amanda Gorman. It will be read by Mayor Wendell Lynch, Idalia Luna, Gwenda Motley, and Carrie Caples. And the third book for grades 5-6 is “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. It will be read by Dr. Alissa Young, Tab Brockman, Brooke Jung, and Alissa Keller.
“Christian County Literacy Council encourages reading with children every day for 15-20 minutes. The books that will be read on Friday all have important messages in them, even reminders adults can learn from. We all are excited and look forward to Friday’s viewing,” said Literacy Council Executive Director Francene Gilmer.
While the focus is reading to the kids of Christian County school system, these readings will still be available to everyone on Facebook. If you would like babies to join in the reading, the option is available. Everyone is encouraged to listen to these readings, as they promote life lessons that can benefit anyone.
Be on the lookout via Facebook for the next event. At least once a month, an event is held for the kids in the community. For the month of December, Cookies with Santa will be upcoming.
Tune in this Friday beginning at 7 a.m. for stories read by inspiring community leaders. Each book will be donated to the every elementary school in the Christian County School System, available for both teachers and students to reread.
This week Planters Bank announced the kickoff of its annual Season of Giving.
There will be 12 area organizations throughout western Kentucky and Tennessee supported through the campaign. The campaign kicked off Monday and goes through the end of December.
Each individual Planters Bank branch is raising money for a specific charity. Locally, the two Hopkinsville branches will be donating to the Boys & Girls Club (the Main Street branch) and Men2Be (the Indian Hills branch).
Entering its eighth year, the Planters Bank Season of Giving is a community tradition that has a goal of bringing awareness to local non-profit organizations’ missions at the same time as fundraising for the organizations. This year, the focus is on giving back to the children in the communities.
“We have so many deserving organizations in our communities that help support children’s needs. It’s important for us to bolster the efforts of these non-profits who shape the futures of our communities,” said Planters Bank CEO Elizabeth McCoy.
Based on the popularity of last year’s Season of Giving gift sets, Planters Bank is once again offering a Kentucky gift and a Tennessee gift — this time with a new design and new items included. The custom designed gift tins are filled with a matching flour sack towel and a custom state-shaped ornament. Planters Bank commissioned the items from local branded merchandise agency Williams Advertising. Each set retails for $20 and is available for purchase in every Planters Bank location beginning today. 100% of the purchase price of each gift is donated directly to the organization supported in that branch.
In addition to supporting these groups through purchases in each branch, the bank has brought back their tradition of donating $25 for every checking or savings account opened mentioning the Season of Giving when visiting a Planters Bank location. Visit the Planters Bank Facebook , Instagram and Twitter to learn more and participate, visit https://expectgreatthingsbank.com/giving/ to learn more about the non-profits and the campaign gift items, and find out more about Planters Bank’s philanthropic efforts at plantersbankonline.com.
Planters Bank is headquartered in Hopkinsville, KY and has twelve locations throughout Western Kentucky and Tennessee. Planters Bank is a community bank that is committed to delivering an exceptional banking experience all while giving back to the community. Find out more about Planters Bank by visiting www.plantersbankonline.com.