Ex-detective admits misleading US judge who approved Breonna Taylor raid

Breonna Taylor was sleeping in bed next to her boyfriend when police began banging on her door after midnight. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - A former police detective admitted on Tuesday (Aug 23) that she had helped mislead a judge into wrongly authorising a raid of Breonna Taylor's apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, setting in motion the nighttime operation in which police fatally shot Taylor.

The former detective, Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy, admitting that she had worked with another officer to falsify a search warrant application and had later lied to cover up their act.

In pleading guilty, Goodlett became the first police officer to be convicted over the March 2020 raid, during which police were searching for evidence of drug dealing by Taylor's former boyfriend Jamarcus Glover.

Inside a courtroom in downtown Louisville, Goodlett, 35, admitted that she had known there was not enough evidence to support approving the warrant, but had nonetheless failed to object when a fellow detective falsely wrote that police knew Glover was receiving packages at Taylor's home.

Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, sat in the courtroom during the plea and wiped away tears, while a woman beside her held her arm.

As part of the plea deal, Goodlett will remain free on bond until she is sentenced. The maximum prison term for the crime to which she pleaded guilty is five years.

Goodlett's plea suggested that she may be cooperating with the Justice Department prosecutors who have charged her and two other former Louisville police officers over their roles in acquiring the search warrant for the raid.

A fourth officer is accused of violating Taylor's civil rights, as well as her neighbours', by firing 10 bullets through the two apartments. None of those bullets struck anyone.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician who hoped to become a nurse, was sleeping in bed next to her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when police began banging on her door after midnight, waking her up.

Walker said later that when the banging began, they asked who was at the door and received no response, although the officers said they had announced themselves.

Walker said that when the officers rammed open the apartment door, he believed they were intruders and fired one shot, striking an officer in the leg. Three officers returned fire.

Neither of the two officers who shot Taylor has been charged. Prosecutors have said in court documents that neither of those officers knew that the search warrant was based partially on false information.

Goodlett, who resigned from the police force after she was charged this month, was not present at the raid.

For more than a month after the shooting, Taylor's death received little attention. It began to attract scrutiny in May 2020, just before a police officer in Minneapolis was recorded fatally kneeling on George Floyd's neck as he struggled to breathe.

The police killings of Taylor and Floyd, both of whom were Black, led to protests against police brutality and racism across the United States in the spring and summer of 2020, quickly becoming one of the largest protest movements in US history.

Brett Hankison, the former detective who is facing federal charges of violating the rights of Taylor and her neighbours by firing shots through their apartments, also faced state charges over the shooting, but a jury acquitted him earlier this year.

Before the Justice Department stepped in this month, he was the only officer to face criminal charges over the raid.

The shooting of Taylor prompted several states and cities to ban or restrict the use of "no-knock" warrants, which authorise police officers to charge into people's homes without warning.

Those warrants have led to a series of fatal shootouts, particularly when they are based on faulty information or a police officer's lies.

In the raid on Taylor's home, police had obtained such a warrant; officers did knock on her door, but it remains in dispute whether they announced themselves as police.

In the application for the search warrant for Taylor's home, Joshua Jaynes, a former detective who is among those facing charges, claimed that he had "verified through a US postal inspector" that Glover, Taylor's former boyfriend, was having packages sent to her apartment.

During proceedings last year over his firing from the Police Department, Jaynes acknowledged that he had not spoken with any postal inspector. He has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against him.

In the plea agreement that was filed in court Tuesday, Goodlett and the prosecutors said that detectives had seen Glover pick up a package at Taylor's apartment about two months before the raid, but had not been able to find any more evidence that he was receiving packages there.

The plea agreement states that the detectives did not know whether Glover had even been to Taylor's apartment in the six weeks before the raid.

Although Goodlett knew that Jaynes' claim in the warrant application was false, she did not change the application. Instead, the plea agreement states, she misleadingly claimed that Glover had been using Taylor's address as his own, despite the fact that both detectives knew he had not been living there.

The plea agreement states that two days before the raid, a police sergeant who was keeping watch on Taylor's apartment had seen a car belonging to Walker nearby.

The sergeant, Kyle Meany, did not disclose that information to Goodlett, the agreement says, adding that if he had, it could have undermined the search warrant application by casting doubt on the existence of any continuing relationship between Taylor and Glover.

Meany has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating Taylor's rights and lying to the FBI about the warrant.

As Taylor's death attracted more public attention, prosecutors said, Goodlett and Jaynes met in Jaynes' garage and decided to tell investigators that the warrant had been based not on the verification of a postal inspector but on an offhand comment by a sergeant.

Jaynes has repeated that claim, but federal prosecutors said that it, too, was false.

The government has charged Jaynes with violating Taylor's rights by submitting the false warrant application and with conspiring to obstruct investigations into the warrant.

In the plea agreement, Goodlett and federal prosecutors said that Jaynes had chosen to seek the warrant from a judge who he had previously suggested would not look too closely at the application.

The judge, Mary Shaw, is running for reelection and has declined to comment about the matter of the warrant, noting that she could be called to testify in the trials of the other officers.

Neither the Justice Department nor Goodlett's lawyer has commented on whether Goodlett has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

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