FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky State Police didn't examine the computer files of former Legislative Research Commission Director Bobby Sherman as part of a document shredding probe, a newspaper reported Friday, citing investigative records.
The computer files were never examined before police announced the case was closed and they'd found no evidence of wrongdoing, The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1p3Yueu) reported. The Louisville newspaper said it obtained the records under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
The development has raised questions about the investigation's thoroughness.
"These days, almost in any investigation, you look at the person's computer for any type of evidence," said Carl Christiansen, a Louisville private investigator who was an FBI agent for 25 years.
Investigators were told that Sherman had deleted the contents of his computer, the newspaper reported. State police seized the computer, though Sherman said the deletion was accidental and LRC officials said the deleted files had been restored.
Norm Williams, a financial investigator from Lexington who worked for 26 years with the Internal Revenue Service, said deletion of computer files on Sherman's last day — even accidentally — raises a red flag.
Sherman resigned last year amid accusations that the legislative workplace had been too tolerant of sexual harassment — and shortly after announcing his staff's investigation of complaints against former state Rep. John Arnold had been completed, though not to the accusers' satisfaction.
"Given the timing of Sherman's departure, his saying he accidentally deleted stuff is not a good story," Williams said. "... So yes, you should have your forensic computer people find out. I certainly would have. It's a no-brainer."
But the state police investigator in the case, Detective Vincent Schmitt, said his interviews with the four LRC officials who were with Sherman the day of the shredding — two days after his resignation — gave no indication the computer contained anything important to the investigation.
"The scope of my investigation, and the complaint as it was related to me, was regarding the shredding of physical documents," Schmitt said. "I had no reasonable suspicion to believe that those (computer) files were anything that was relating to the shredding of these documents, anything nefarious."
The records show Schmitt completed the investigation Jan. 20 when he wrote: "During the course of this investigation, I have discovered no evidence of any criminal violation. Additionally, I have discovered no evidence to warrant a forensic examination of Mr. Sherman's LRC computer or email account."
And on Feb. 25, Schmitt sent a memo to state police property officers that all remaining evidence — including two plastic bags of shredded documents that he said could not be reconstructed — could be destroyed.
At the time of his resignation, Sherman was under fire from two female legislative staffers who said he had not done enough to investigate their initial, internal complaints — made in February 2013 — that they had been sexually harassed by Arnold.
Arnold was found guilty last month of violating the ethics code by the Legislative Ethics Commission in relation to the charges. The two women now have a lawsuit pending against Arnold, the LRC and other defendants
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com