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Kenton County Judge Dawn Gentry accused of having sex, drinking alcohol in courthouse

Judicial Conduct Commission will hear her case
Posted: 9:39 PM, Dec 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-06 10:15:35-05

COVINGTON, Ky. — A local judge stands accused of having sex and alcohol in the courthouse, coercing staff, taking revenge that affected cases, and more.

An anonymous person filed the complaint about Judge Dawn Gentry, a family court judge in Kenton County, to the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission on Nov. 18. The accusations include:

  • Having sex with two staff members in the courthouse.
  • Drinking alcohol in the courthouse.
  • Coercing staff to help her with her campaign.
  • Retaliating against those who did not support her.
  • Holding pretrial conferences in child abuse cases without all attorneys present
  • Falsifying time sheets.

Gentry could lose her seat if found guilty of serious ethics violations.

"They're very serious charges,” said attorney Richard Goldberg, who has experience with these types of cases.

READ the commission's notice of formal charges and Gentry's answer.

Goldberg is a member of the Cincinnati Bar Association Grievance Committee and took a look at the complaints against Gentry.

“There's numerous ones and several are serious enough that they can, if proven, justify removal from the bench, yes,” Goldberg said.

The commission report says Gentry:

"Engaged in sexual activity... in a courthouse office, during work hours."

"Permitted staff to store and consume alcoholic beverages in court offices and at times consumed alcoholic beverages in the courthouse."

“Retaliated against a school liaison officer."

It says Gentry's child witnessed a confidential proceeding and that Gentry’s child "recognized the child involved in the proceeding," violating confidentiality.

"I think her law license could be in jeopardy as well," Goldberg said.

In her formal response, Gentry denied sexual conduct and denied any knowledge of alcohol.

She said she asked staff to help with her campaign, but never asked for money.

WCPO talked with Gentry's attorney, Stephen Ryan of Louisville, via Facetime.

“She’s worried, but she seems to be holding up real well. Just talked to her five minutes ago,” Ryan said Thursday.

“She has a lot of people coming to her assistance and aid. They think she’s a real good judge. So, they contacted me. So that’s good.”

Goldberg says the six-member Judicial Conduct Commission will hear each side and decide punishment.

“The sanctions vary,” Goldberg said. “They can be as minor as private reprimand. It could be public reprimand. It could be a suspension of her duties as a judge for a time period or removal from the bench.”