A guilty plea last week by a former Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) detective involved in the botched sting that led to The death of Breonna Taylor opens the door to her possibly cooperating with prosecutors, experts say – something that is very rare in law enforcement investigations.
DOJ charges Kelly Goodlett with aiding and abetting falsification of search warrant affidavit she authorized “no knock” entering Taylor’s apartment in March 2020.
“Goodlett admitted that she helped another LMPD detective and their supervisor obtain a warrant to search Taylor’s home, even though she knew the officers had no reasonable cause to do so,” federal prosecutors said in statement on 23 Aug
Goodlett and two other former LMPD officers — Kyle Meaney and Joshua Janes — are accused of lying to obtain a search warrant for Taylor’s home. Meaney and Janes are also charged with violating Taylor’s civil rights, which carries a maximum of life in prison if convicted.
Another officer, Brett Hankinson, faces a separate federal charge of violating Taylor’s civil rights for allegedly using excessive force by shooting 10 times at Taylor’s apartment.
Read more: For Breonna Taylor’s supporters, justice has finally come — in the form of federal civil rights charges
Local media questioned whether Goodlett would testify against his two former colleagues, which is highly unusual for cops to do — especially in high-profile cases. Typically, officers tend to band together and support each other in the face of formal or criminal investigations, said Steve Cohen, a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
“For so many reasons and for so many years, it has always been difficult to get the cooperation of a law enforcement officer,” says Cohen. “There is so much pressure on you as a law enforcement officer to stand by your brothers and sisters. The idea of breaking this link, even to defend a broader principle, becomes very difficult.
Beyond that, however, the Justice Department’s involvement in a case like this is also not very common, said Joe Margulies, a Cornell University criminal law professor and former defense attorney. “The very fact that the feds got involved as a separate prosecution is unusual. “Most police shootings, even with multiple co-defendants, do not result in federal charges,” Margulis says.
What is more routine, according to Margulis and other experts, is the alleged violation: making false statements on documents such as affidavits and search warrants. Such bad behavior “is astonishingly common. These are accidental falsehoods which are purposefully inserted into an affidavit in support of an application for a warrant. They’re practiced at it,” says Margulies.
Here’s what you need to know about the status of the charges against the four police officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder.
Of the four officers charged by federal prosecutors, Goodlett faces the least serious charge—one count of criminal conspiracy. The Justice Department alleges that she and Janes worked together to write the false warrant affidavit and, after the assault, worked together to write a false police report to cover up the affidavit.
During a hearing last week, Goodlett pleaded guilty to the felony charge. She resigned from the police department on August 5, the day after the federal charges were announced. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, was in the courtroom when Goodlett pleaded guilty.
“A warrant affidavit requires permission for officers to do a no knock entry at Taylor’s home because the alleged drug dealers LMPD was investigating had a history of fleeing police and destroying evidence,” the DOJ statement said. “Goodlett admitted that all of the information in the warrant affidavit justifying the no-knock entry of Taylor’s home was false as it related to Taylor. Goodlett knew of no good reason to seek a restraining order at Taylor’s home.
It is not often that police officers plead guilty in such cases. “It’s possible that prosecutors recognized that she was someone who was likely to cooperate, and they may have gotten a tip from their attorney,” Cohen says. “I suppose it’s very likely that she will indeed cooperate.”
Regardless of the evidence available to the DOJ, a witness who can reveal exactly what happened in such a case is always helpful to the jury. “You always want a storyteller to tell the story,” says Cohen.
Read more: This is a very unusual situation. What the motion to release Breona Taylor’s grand jury records in the case says
Goodlett faces up to five years in prison, along with a possible fine of $250,000 — significantly less than the other officers if convicted. Goodlett likely reached a plea deal with prosecutors before charges were filed, Margulies suggested. “This is common. If they catch a member of the conspiracy who has already reached an agreement to cooperate, they will separate that person and his charges from the others,” he says.
Goodlett’s attorney, Brandon Marshall, did not respond to a request for comment.
She is due to be sentenced on November 22.
Joshua Janes and Kyle Meaney
Joshua Janes, Kyle Meaney
LMPD/AP; Timothy D. Easley—AP
Janes faces three counts — conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation and violating Taylor’s civil rights. Meany faces two charges: trespassing Taylor’s Civil Rights and lying to federal investigators.
Janes allegedly participated with Goodlett in creating the false affidavit. He and Goodlett told a judge that their real target — Taylor’s ex-boyfriend — was getting packages delivered to her home, even though there was no evidence of that, prosecutors said.
According to a federal indictment, Janes provided a false document to the FBI around May 2020 “that he knew would be used in a criminal investigation into the preparation and execution of the Springfield Drive warrant at Breona Taylor’s home.” In this document, Janes provides misleading information about the relationship between Taylor and alleged drug trafficking.
A few weeks later, Janes and Goodlett met in a garage to discuss the false affidavit they made, prosecutors say. “[Joshua Jaynes] delivered to [Kelly Goodlett] that they needed to get on the same page because they could both be sued for entering false information into the Springfield Drive warrant affidavit,” the indictment said.
Meanwhile, along with the civil rights charges he shares with Janes, Meaney allegedly made false statements to the FBI during their investigation into the incident. Prosecutors allege he told federal authorities the LMPD SWAT team requested the affidavit-barring section for a warrant, when that was not true.
Attorneys representing Meany and Hayes did not respond to a request for comment.
The trial of Meaney and Hayes is plates to start in October.
Brett Hankison talks about seeing a subject in an apartment shooting while under cross-examination in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 2, 2022.
Timothy D. Easley—AP
Hankison’s charges stem from his actions on the night of the attack. While the officers were at the front door of Taylor’s house, he went to the side of Taylor’s house and fired 10 hits bedroom window and sliding door.
The window and door were covered with blinds and blackout curtains, so it was impossible for him to see anything inside the house. During his state trial earlier this year, Hankison claimed he thought the officers who carried out the attack were under fire. He was found not guilty in that trial.
Hankinson’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
His trial is due to begin in November.
More must-see stories from TIME