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Defense: Gentry had 'lots of lapses of judgment,' should keep her job as a judge

Posted at 6:56 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 21:23:56-04

Judge Dawn Gentry was a bad boss and a bad politician, her defense attorney said on the final day of her misconduct case before the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission. She received nude photos of an employee and made unwanted sexual advances toward an attorney whose cases she continued to preside over. Drinking took place in her office.

Attorney Todd Lewis argued none of that makes her a bad judge, and she shouldn’t lose her position for it.

“The voters of Kenton County placed this individual in a constitutional position, and that should not lightly be undone, ever,” Lewis said.

The commission will decide if he’s right.

HOW IT STARTED: Kenton County Judge Dawn Gentry accused of having sex, drinking alcohol in courthouse

Lewis blamed Gentry’s staff for the empty alcohol containers found in her office and a case specialist named Stephen Penrose for the rumors that she had sex in the courthouse.

One incident in particular, during which witnesses heard “heavy breathing” and “a sexual moaning” coming from her office, Lewis blamed entirely on Penrose. On Wednesday, he had claimed they were a joke to make workers in another judge's office nearby uncomfortable.

“Who was behind the put-on, pretend sex performance that led to someone thinking there as sex in chambers?" Lewis said. "He (Penrose) is behind that.”

Penrose did not testify at any point during the case, but other witnesses called him overbearing, threatening and unprofessional.

Gentry admitted to receiving graphic photos from Penrose on multiple occasions, despite the fact that he worked for her.

“I was going through a really rough time in my marriage,” she said.

She also said she had failed to monitor her staff, and that was why courthouse janitorial workers found beer bottles in her and Penrose's office trashcans.

“I didn’t know it (drinking) was going on, and I should’ve,” she said. “I was not properly supervising my staff.”

Bryan Beauman, the attorney representing the commission, was skeptical that all of the accusations against Gentry – which also include retaliation, sloppy bookkeeping and coercing people into helping her campaign – could be attributed to other people.

“You had multiple lapses of judgment on many different issues involving many different people,” he said.

“There was a big chunk that I was, absolutely had lots of lapses of judgment,” Gentry agreed.

The Judicial Conduct Commission adjourned to deliberate and will release its decision in writing within the next several weeks.