October 7, 2010

I've Got Google™, a Cell Phone, and Confirmation Bias. What More Does a Journalist Need?

[UPDATE added below]

I have potentially devastating -- for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway -- information in my possession, and I did everything possible to corroborate it. But I failed, and instead what I have is a rumor. So, sadly, rather than this post being about the facts of a major national development, it is a journal of my unsuccessful attempt to fit together pieces of gossip into a certifiable account of events. Once again, I must be clear that none of this information has been confirmed by a second source or by documentation. I encourage skepticism.

Last week, a trusted source intimated to me that Ky Attorney General Jack Conway had deliberately impeded a police investigation into Conway's own brother by exposing an undercover police informant. My source's details were thus:

Louisville (Ky) Metro Police were using an informant to gather information on Conway's brother, who is suspected to be involved in illegal narcotics. In June or July of 2010, LMPD Detective Roy Irons* placed an unsanctioned call to Attorney General Conway's office to alert Conway to the investigation, and Irons specifically communicated that one of Conway's brother's associates was a police informant. Conway then called and warned his brother. The informant later complained to LMPD that someone had tipped Conway off, and an internal investigation was opened. Detective Irons was moved to the LMPD Property Room pending the investigation, but the investigation itself was to be shelved until after the November 2010 US Senate election.
The first phonecall of my own investigation was to the LMPD Property Room. I called on a Saturday and when a woman answered "Hello, Property Room" I replied, "I am trying to reach Detective Roy Irons. Do I have the right number?" The woman answered, "Yes, but he's not in today. He should be here Monday." With that, I thought I was actually on to something, since under normal circumstances, a detective would not be assigned to work the Property Room.

But shortly thereafter, my Woodward and Bernstein days were over. Calls to the LMPD Public and Media Relations Department and to Internal Affairs were met with a professional stonewall, and I discovered that LMPD is not under any public obligation to acknowledge an internal investigation even exists until that investigation is concluded, which in this case is part of the issue. An investigation that began in July should have been over long ago.

My next step was to try and co-opt an actual working journalist. I chose to contact a writer with the Louisville Courier-Journal who had an impressive history of investigative pieces on the LMPD. That writer indicated that not all of my information was entirely new, but without a primary source or physical evidence, the story was doomed to the "interesting rumor" file. He tried his best to arrange talks directly with my original source, but that individual declined to escalate his/her involvement for myriad reasons. I can only assume the Courier-Journal is also chasing the story on some level.

Two corroborating documents exist, but my efforts to access them were also dismal failures. One is an obligatory letter from a high-ranking LMPD officer -- most likely Chief Robert White -- informing Det. Irons that he is being investigated. This letter would not include any details of the investigation and would certainly not implicate the Attorney General's office, but it would lend credence. The second document would be an official transfer report showing that Det. Irons had been re-assigned to the Property Room. It also would not detail the investigation. If any part of this story is true, both of these documents would be carefully protected.

Ultimately, there are only three people who could truly confirm the juiciest bit of the allegations involving a justice-obstructing phonecall that put a police informant at risk: Attorney General Conway, his brother, or Det. Irons. An official internal investigation may eventually deduce the truth, but if such an investigation even exists, it is unlikely to be concluded before Election Day.  Motivations to procrastinate abound.

*Pending additional evidence, this name has been changed to protect the innocent.

UPDATE: Looks like the Courier-Journal was hot on the trail after all. The important part:
Jack Conway’s office said in an e-mail to the newspaper Thursday that his only involvement was to advise his brother to obtain legal counsel.


Although he was asked to discuss his knowledge of the investigation involving his brother and the meeting with Adams, Jack Conway’s statement did not address either issue.

When the newspaper renewed its request for elaboration, Allison Gardner Martin, communications director for the attorney general’s office, said Conway “does not deny” that Adams met with him and his brother. But she declined to address what Conway knew about the decision to have Adams visit White.


  1. Hmm, does this little story have anything to do with Rand Paul and the Senate election in Kentucky? You did say skepticism was in order.

  2. It has everything to do with the Senate election. That's the allegation: that LMPD is sitting on the investigation until Conway wins.

    I'm sure Paul's people would love for the story to prove true, but it certainly didn't originate from their camp. I tried to get the Paul campaign to comment and they declined.

  3. "Daniel Mongiardo filed an ethics complaint against Conway alleging that Conway received more than $70,000 in donations from utility company" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Conway_(politician)

    This could be your "Watergate" moment, think of another angle.

  4. http://capitalistbanner.com/2010/10/23/jack-conway-drug-problem-follow-the-money/








  5. Thanks, Anonymous. As my update said: now the story is out, 16 days after my post went up.

    We definitely won't get the whole story until the election is over, but my guess is that Jack Conway will eventually concede "poor judgement" and the issue will disappear.

  6. I don't know what happened to my post the day your story came out. Congratulations!

  7. So you had it first? That's your first official scoop! Congrats. Hmm, do you get one of these http://www.pulitzer.org/theMedal. OTOH, they hand out the Nobel like candy on Halloween, and it doesn't matter it isn't for journalism because it isn't for peace either-except this year