CINCINNATI – A federal judge and her husband – a nationally-known former attorney - appeared as victims in a Hamilton County courtroom Thursday and minced no words describing how three armed men terrorized and threatened to kill them during a violent home invasion and robbery at their Indian Hill mansion.
"They were brutal. They were violent. They kept calling us mother f****** over and over again," said federal Judge Susan Dlott. "They told us they were going to murder us if we didn’t give them everything. That night will remain in my memory as the most horrible and frightening experience of my life.
"I awoke at 10:45 p.m. to see these three men surrounding our bed all pointing guns at us."
The three men took a plea deal and got 34-year sentences from Judge Megan Shanahan after emotional appeals from Dlott and Stan Chesley and a stunningly scathing rebuke from the two prominent courthouse figures.
"This is my chance to tell how I feel so that other people will never have to see these three people in their lives," a stern-faced Chesley said, biting his words as he faced the trio standing a few feet away.
In their victims' statements, Dlott and Chesley described in frightening detail how the men held a gun to Chesley's head, pushed the 80-year-old Chesley down stairs, fracturing several vertebrae, shoved the 66-year-old Dlott and ignored the judge's pleas to take their luxury cars and leave until Dlott finally duped them into fleeing.
"Mr. Jackson here kept a gun to my husband’s head the entire time they were in our house, which I would say was between a half hour and 45 minutes," Dlott said. "He never took the gun off the temple of my husband except when he tried to fire a stun gun at him and it misfired."
Chesley said the men were stoned, cold and threatening, and he imitated them making demands.
“'Where are the safes? Where are the safes? Where are the watches? Where are the Rolex watches? We only want Rolex watches, mother f******'
"If I hear the word mother f****** one more time in my life from anybody … How does one contend with that?" Chesley said.
Chesley mocked the man who held the gun on him and pushed him down the stairs. Dlott and Chesley both looked directly at the three as they talked. Dlott spoke in a normal tone, though she appeared shaken at times. Chesley, on the other hand, was angry and fiery. At times he growled, stuck out his jaw, made a fist and bared his teeth.
"They wanted the cars. Susan looked them in the face and said, 'Here are the keys. I’m a United States Federal Judge and the FBI will look for you forever.' And Mr. Jackson couldn’t have given a damn because he had a gun to my head," Chesley said, shaping a gun out of his finger and thumb and pressing his finger against his left temple. "Turned out that gun was a 45 automatic. It had to be a big gun for this guy. Big, big, big gun. I had a little doggy. I couldn’t run. He knocked me down the steps.
"Do any of you know what it’s like to have a gun to your head? And when you’re pushing at your wife … I hope they never get out of jail. I’m sorry. They should never be out of prison."
Just then, there was an outburst in the court. A family member of one of the defendants shouted at Chesley:
“You stole millions of dollars.”
“Hey! No! Out! Now!' said Shanahan. 'There will be no disruption like that.”
Chesley responded: “Yes, I made millions of dollars because I worked hard.”
The outburst was in reference to a lawsuit that accused Chesley of taking $7.5 million more in attorney's fees than his contract allowed as part of a 2001 class-action verdict against the maker of diet drug Fen-Phen. Chesley, who won billions in class-actions for clients in his career, lost the suit and was disbarred by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Dlott described what led to the pushing and shoving in the garage - and ultimately to their escape.
"We talked them into taking the cars instead of taking anything else ... We got out into the garage and ... I pushed the buttons to open the garage doors because I was hoping they would alert someone who lives across the way. At that point Mr. Williams pushed me and said, 'Don’t do that.' And then my husband said to him, 'Leave her alone,' at which point Mr. Jackson here, who still had the gun on my husband’s temple with his right hand, forcefully pushed him down five steps onto a concrete floor.
"I thought my husband was unconscious lying on the floor. I ran down to him and they dragged me back up to where they were. At that point I pushed the buttons again. The garage doors not only opened but set off an alarm because they hadn’t cycled. I could see they were all kind of taken aback and I ran down to the floor. I found that my husband was conscious. I said to him, 'Let’s run.' We have woods behind our house and I said, “Let’s run to the woods. I don’t know how good a shot they are, but we’re better off taking this chance than letting them kill us in cold blood.' And so we ran into the woods.
"My husband was badly injured at that point already. He had four fractures - three in his back and one on the crest of his pelvis - and he had a subdural hematoma and concussion. He couldn’t move any further, so even though it was 30 degrees, he was only in a robe, we were both barefoot, I was in a nightgown, I ran through the woods for about 20 minutes down to the closest house where I got help from someone down there who called 911 for me."
HEAR Judge Dlott's 911 call: "Call the United States Marshals!"
There was a moment in the courtroom when Chesley's eyes filled with tears and his voice softened, and that was when he recalled hiding in their woods with their dog.
"I’m in the woods and I’m holding our dog tight. And I look at the dog and say, 'I’m sorry that you’re going to be killed because you live with us,'" Chesley said as Dlott tried to comfort him.
Chesley and Dlott both ended up in the hospital the next day, Dlott said.
"My feet were severely injured, but nothing like the injury that was done to my husband, who still has pain in his back, but worst of all from the concussion there are lasting effects that the doctors tell us will probably not go away. So they have done permanent damage. My husband is 80 years old. This shouldn’t have happened to an 80-year-old man."
Chesley said he has memory loss.
"I have to say that I have never been the same. I have flashes. I have events. Somebody will talk to me. I’ll see a TV story. I’ll see a gun on a TV show and I blank. My ability of memory is not what it was," he said.
"I'm shaking," Chesley said. "These three men do not deserve any mercy … They were the worst people that have happened to me … My life and my wife's life will never be the same."
"I would like these men to be locked away so they can never do this to anyone again," Dlott said.
Condemning the trio, Shanahan called their actions last December "pure malice and pure evil."
"What the three of you did that night can’t be undone no matter how many days you wake up. I venture a guess that you regret it because it all came crashing down and you were caught. You were caught because you were stupid and were criminals," Shanahan said.
Terry Darnell Jackson, 21; Demetrius Williams, 20, and Darrell Joseph Kinney, 20, had faced more than 100 years in prison in this case alone, and prosecutors said they had committed three other similar home-invasion robberies, including an elderly Montgomery couple. The plea deal covers all the charges against them, including kidnapping and assault.
The trio had been driving around on the night of Dec. 4 looking for a home to rob, according to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Chesley said the men spotted his luxury car as he and Dlott drove home from dinner at Dewey's Pizza in Kenwood.
First, the three men went downtown and bought marijuana, Deters said. Then they smoked it and broke into the house through a rear basement door.
"They were so high you couldn’t imagine," Chesley said. "You couldn’t talk to them. If they’d have had that much liquor, they would’ve fainted and we would’ve been fine. Had to go get a big bag of marijuana."
Indian Hill Rangers said they arrested the three men on a traffic stop when they rolled through a stop sign. The trunk was open and stolen items were in plain view, they said.
After the court hearing, Dlott joked and said she told Chesley she would never drive to dinner with him in a luxury car again.
Dlott also told WCPO's Julie O'Neill that the hearing had been more emotional for her than she expected.
"I didn't realize how emotional it would be. I thought I had suppressed all that, but obviously I didn't. It's still there," Dlott said.
"We'll never forget this ... the true terror that we felt that night, because I think we both were pretty sure that they were going to kill us."
She also said she observed a few things as a victim in court Thursday and not a judge.
"When I heard the men talk and describe their version of the incident, I was just so shocked that I was angry. It tells me a lot as a judge. I'm probably known as a lenient judge and I learned a lot today that the way people appear in front of the judge is not the way they always are," Dlott said.
Asked how she felt about the 34-year sentences, Dlott said:
"The way I looked at it, Stanley's 80, I'm 66, I'll be 100 when they get out and Stanley will be 100 and something, so my feeling is I'll never have to see them again."