Man sues Lexington officer for malicious prosecution after grand jury declined to indict

A Lexington man previously arrested for murder charges has filed a federal lawsuit against a Lexington Police Department detective for malicious prosecution and claims she violated his constitutional rights.

The detective, Krystin Klingshirn, tried to have the case thrown out. In March, a federal judge ruled against the detective, allowing the lawsuit against her to continue.

Kenneth Wadkins filed a suit Klingshirn in June 2023, claiming she maliciously prosecuted him by violating his constitutional rights.

Wadkins, 43, was charged with murder in October 2021 in the killing 38-year-old Wesley Brown on Breckenridge Street in January 2021. Police arrested Wadkins in April 2022.

A Fayette County grand jury declined to indict Wadkins in June 2022, and the charges were dismissed after he was held in jail for two months.

Daniel Whitley, Wadkins’ attorney, said this experience is one of many in which Lexington police and the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney’s Office arrest and hold people for murder, only to later dismiss the charges.

Whitley referenced another case he worked regarding Tayte Patton. In December 2021, a grand jury chose not to indict Patton for the murder of a former Tates Creek basketball player, Mykel Waide, based on insufficient evidence. Waide was killed in August 2020.

Whitley has been vocal in an ongoing case of Corry Jackson, who was indicted for the murder of Timonte Harris in June 2023. In Jackson’s case, Whitley argued his client was being held while evidence was presented to the grand jury before it was deemed conclusive due to backlog at Kentucky State Police laboratories.

“They are arresting people unlawfully and holding them, and we are suing to hold them accountable,” Whitley said.

Jason Hernandez, the attorney listed as representing Klingshirn, did not return a Herald-Leader request for comment.

Details of criminal case

A criminal complaint against Wadkins was brought forth by Klingshirn, where she alleged a “cooperating witness” identified him as the person who committed the crime. She also cited anonymous “Crime Stoppers” tips that identified the suspect under the street name “Ghost,” according to court documents.

Klingshirn wrote that other evidence at the scene of the murder implicated Wadkins, and location data from his phone allegedly pinged in the area.

Wadkins and Whitley argue there was lack of probable cause against Wadkins because Klingshirn did not have a reasonable basis for her claims.

Wadkins’ suit attempts to poke holes in the evidence presented by the detective, primarily by highlighting the cooperating witness was a man “well-known to the Lexington Police Department” named Buford Lee Lyvers Jr.

The suit alleges Lyvers was seeking favorable treatment for his own criminal liability in a potential bond revocation in exchange for this information against Wadkins.

The lawsuit also alleges Klingshirn did not disclose that the result of the electronic search indicated other phones would have pinged in the area of the murder and whether the name “Ghost” was used by Wadkins, or anyone else — if at all.

According to the complaint, Wadkins’ attempted to obtain the department records pertaining to his case, but he was refused access under Kentucky statutes that guard documents during pretrial discovery proceedings.

“(Wadkins) has reason to believe that such information, once produced by the Lexington Police Department during discovery in this matter, will not only tend to establish the facts alleged herein, but will also tend to establish the lack of probable cause for (Wadkins’) arrest and prosecution,” the lawsuit read.

Judge rules against officer

In Klingshirn’s answer to the civil complaint, she denied the allegations and said what Wadkins was accused of “speaks for itself.”

She requested the civil complaint be dismissed on grounds that two separate judges found probable cause in his case to issue an arrest warrant and also send the case to a grand jury — therefore making null the malicious prosecution claim.

Klingshirn testified at Wadkins’ preliminary hearing, where Fayette District Court Judge Lindsey Hughes Thurston sent the case to the grand jury.

More than that, Klingshirn argues, Wadkins’ attorney at the preliminary hearing, public attorney Valerie Michaels, waived the right to object to probable cause.

“As such, (Wadkins) cannot now do so, having waived any objection to the finding of probable cause at his preliminary hearing,” Klingshirn’s response said.

Case precedent from State v. Freeman was cited in Klingshirn’s motion that ruled that by waiving a preliminary hearing, the defendant waives all formalities and all irregularities in the proceeding prior to the filing of the information.

Klingshirn’s dismissal included precedent that argued if someone chooses to waive their rights, they can’t later complain about minor issues or procedural errors during a legal process. Once they’ve waived their rights and the examination or questioning has happened, they can’t bring up any issues they could have raised during that process in any future proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove said Klingshirn’s arguments fail by numerous other precedents he cited in his four-page opinion, all of which went against Klingshirn’s assertions.

Her primary argument was two district judges established probable cause in early proceedings in lower courts. The U.S.District the Court of Appeals of Kentucky has noted a district court’s finding of probable cause should not be binding in subsequent circuit court proceedings.

That’s because district courts do not have jurisdiction to finally dispose of a felony case.