$4.5 million sent from Office of Attorney General to Ky. State Police for future rape kit testing; Backlog kits still wait testing

05/09/2016 09:24 PM

FRANKFORT — With the push of a button the Office of the Attorney General transferred $4.5 million in settlement funds to the Kentucky State Police in an effort to ensure justice for rape victims.

The fund transfer is meant to ensure invasive sexual assault forensic kits are tested in a timely fashion, but as the dollars head to the crime lab there remain thousands of untested kits still sitting on shelves and in boxes in the commonwealth.

In a press conference in Frankfort on Monday, Attorney General Andy Beshear said that there could be more than 5,000 untested sexual assault kits still waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Former Auditor Adam Edelen identified 3,090 kits in an audit conducted in 2015, but the review lacked buy-in from some in the law enforcement community.

As Pure Politics first reported in March the untested kits will be sent out-of-state for testing, but the contract for that testing has yet to be awarded by the Finance Cabinet.

Previously, the Kentucky State Police had hoped to have the contract awarded by April. The Kentucky State Police did not return a call seeking comment on the kits still waiting for testing.

Beshear said he would be getting in touch with the Finance Cabinet and do everything he could to push for the approval of the contract in a collaborative fashion.

The $4.5 million transferred on Monday was agreed to by the General Assembly under Senate Bill 63, known as the SAFE Act, in an effort to update equipment and expand the Kentucky State Police crime lab. The legislation also called for additional personnel and set in place a time-frame to speed up the testing of sexual assault kits.

During the press conference, Beshear lauded the efforts of Eileen Recktenwald, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, and sexual assault survivor Michelle Kuiper for their work in pushing for the reforms and additional funding.

Kuiper said she knows what it’s like to wait for justice, and hopes others will feel empowered to come forward knowing their sexual assault kits will be tested and prosecuted.

“My hope is that this new law in place and reform will allow survivors of future crimes like these feel empowered to report their crime,” she said.

Recktenwald said the actions of the General Assembly and prosecution of rape should send a message.

“The SAFE act will give Kentucky prosecutors the tools they need to identify those perpetrators who have, until now, successfully been invisible. Who thought they got away with rape, because up until now they have,” Recktenwald said. “That stops now. This legislation puts protocols in place that finally puts the responsibility for rape where it belongs — on the offender.”

Over the next biennium, an additional $1 million from settlement funds from a lawsuit against Risperdal drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, will also be sent to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.

Beshear described the fund transfer on Monday as a “dream or a prayer come true.”

“It’s the intersection, with me, of the two things I do in my life. I pursue this mission and I raise my kids,” he said. “Because of those two things I say pretty much the same prayer every night as it involves me. Number one, that I’m around long enough to watch my kids grow up and raise their own family.

“Number two, that I have the strength to build the type of state they deserve,” Beshear continued. “Thanks to the General Assembly and these advocates, today, I think we’ve taken a big step to building that state.”

Senate Bill 63 requires all sexual assault kits be submitted to the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory and the average completion date for assault kit testing not to exceed 90 days by July of 2018. That time frame would drop to 60 days by July of 2020.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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