A federal grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky returned two indictments that were not sealed today, and the Justice Department filed a third indictment today, as part of an inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. woman who was fatally shot in her Louisville home on March 13, 2020 by police officers executing a search warrant.
“The Department of Justice has charged four current and former Louisville Metro Police Department officers with federal crimes related to the death of Breonna Taylor,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said. “Among other things, the federal charges announced today allege that members of the LMPD’s Location-Based Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home, that this act violated federal civil rights laws and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death. Breonna Taylor should be alive today. The Department of Justice is committed to defending and protecting the civil rights of every person in this country. This was the founding vocation of this Department, and it remains our urgent mission.
“On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor should have woken up at home as usual, but tragically, she didn’t,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said. “Since the founding of our nation, the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights has guaranteed that all people have the right to be safe in their homes, free from forged warrants, unreasonable searches, and Use of Undue and Excessive Force by Police These indictments reflect the Department of Justice’s commitment to upholding the integrity of the criminal justice system and protecting the constitutional rights of every American.
The first indictment charges former Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Detective Joshua Jaynes, 40, and current LMPD Sergeant Kyle Meany, 35, with federal civil rights violations and obstruction for their role in preparing and approving a forged search warrant affidavit that resulted in Taylor. death. The second indictment charges former LMPD Detective Brett Hankison, 46, with civil rights violations for firing his service weapon into Taylor’s apartment through a covered window and a covered glass door. The third charging document – a piece of information filed by the Department of Justice – accuses LMPD Detective Kelly Goodlett of conspiring with Jaynes to tamper with the search warrant for Taylor’s home and subsequently cover up their actions.
The first indictment – charging Jaynes and Meany in connection with the alleged bogus warrant – contains four counts. The first count accuses Jaynes and Meany, while acting in their capacity as officers, of deliberately depriving Taylor of her constitutional rights by drafting and approving a false affidavit to obtain a search warrant for Taylor’s home. The indictment alleges Jaynes and Meany knew the affidavit contained false and misleading statements, omitted material facts, relied on outdated information and was not supported by probable cause. The indictment also alleges that Jaynes and Meany knew that the execution of the search warrant would be carried out by armed LMPD officers and could create a dangerous situation both for those officers and for anyone at the home of Taylor. According to the charges, the officers responsible for executing the warrant had no involvement in drafting the warrant affidavit and were unaware that it was forged. This count alleges that the offense resulted in Taylor’s death.
The second count charges Jaynes with conspiracy, for agreeing with another detective to cover up the forged warrant affidavit after Taylor’s death by writing a false investigation letter and making false statements to criminal investigators. The third count accuses Jaynes of falsifying a report in an attempt to prevent a criminal investigation into Taylor’s death. Count Four accuses Meany of making a false statement to federal investigators.
The second indictment – against Hankison – includes two civil rights charges alleging that Hankison deliberately used unconstitutional excessive force, while acting in his official capacity as an officer, when he fired his service weapon in the Taylor’s apartment through a covered window and a covered glass door. The First Earl accuses him of depriving Taylor and a person staying with Taylor in his apartment of their constitutional rights by firing shots through a bedroom window covered with blinds and a blackout curtain. The second count charges Hankison with depriving three of Taylor’s neighbors of their constitutional rights by firing shots through a sliding glass door covered with blinds and a curtain; the indictment alleges that several of Hankison’s bullets passed through the wall of Taylor’s home and into the apartment occupied by his neighbors. Both counts allege that Hankison used a dangerous weapon and that his conduct involved attempted murder.
The information accusing Goodlett of conspiracy contains one count. He accuses Goodlett of conspiring with Jaynes to falsify the warrant affidavit for Taylor’s home and filing a false report to cover up the false affidavit.
All of the civil rights charges involve alleged violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 242, which makes it a felony for a public servant acting under the guise of law – that is, a public servant who uses or abuses the authority given to that person by the government — willfully violating a person’s constitutional rights. A violation of this law carries a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment when the violation results in death or involves attempted murder. The obstruction counts in the indictments carry a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years; and the conspiracy counts carry a maximum statutory sentence of five years, as does the false statements charge. The effective penalties, in the event of conviction, are determined by a judge.
The charges announced today are separate from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division model or practice investigation of the Louisville Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department, announced by Attorney General Garland on April 26, 2021. The charges announced today are criminal against individual officers, while the ongoing Patterns or Practices Investigation is a civil investigation that examines allegations of systemic violations of the Constitution and federal law by the LMPD and the Louisville Metro. The civil pattern or practice investigation is handled independently of the criminal case by a different team of career personnel.
The charges announced today are also separate from charges previously filed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky against Hankison related to the shooting at Taylor’s home. The federal charges allege violations of the US Constitution, rather than state law. The federal charges also allege excessive use of force against Taylor and a person staying at her apartment; violations not included in the Commonwealth case.
These federal cases were investigated by the FBI Field Office in Louisville. Civil Rights Division trial attorneys Michael J. Songer and Anna Gotfryd are pursuing cases with Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Dembo of the Eastern District of Kentucky.
An indictment or information is only a formal allegation of criminal behavior. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.