Cornett's attorney says arrest was wrong

December 08, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

Ronnie Gay Cornett's defense attorney says police should have let his client show up at the Boyle County Courthouse with a gun before arresting him.

Cornett is charged with three counts of criminal attempt to commit murder. He is accused of forming a plot to kill his ex-wife, her attorney and Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie. The couple were involved in a bitter divorce settlement.

"I guess now we must have 'thought police,'" Cornett's attorney, Mark Stanziano of Somerset, said Tuesday at an impromptu news conference in the hallway of the courthouse. "I suppose you can get arrested for thinking something."

Cornett pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Boyle District Court during arraignment by video from the Boyle County Detention Center.

Police arrested Cornett Thursday at his residence after receiving a tip. He had two loaded guns in his possession, one in his house and one in his vehicle.


Stanziano said Cornett's alleged plan was reported by one of the attorneys working on an appeal in his divorce case.

"If they were concerned that he had supposed thoughts in his head to threaten the life of the judge, they should've had officers on guard at the courthouse, then they can arrest him for armed attempted murder," Stanziano said.

"It doesn't matter if he had a loaded gun in his vehicle ..." Stanziano said, " ... because he was unable to use his vehicle since the police had already flattened his tire."

Stanziano said that he didn't know if Cornett discussed his thoughts or "just had them," but the attorney was clear on his feeling that Cornett was wrongly arrested.

Stanziano also claims that the fact that no bail was set for his client is "... not concurrent with the law. This is not a capital murder case.

"The guy's own attorney turned him in. Is that not enough for him to go through?" Stanziano said to the television cameras after the arraignment.

Sparrow, Dotson recuse themselves

Trial Commissioner James Sparrow and District Judge Jeff Dotson have recused themselves from the case. Sparrow presided over the arraignment but was unable to rule on bail.

"That's fine if they all want to recuse themselves from the case, I totally understand. But keeping him in custody without bail goes completely against compliance in procedures on cases like this," Stanziano said.

Stanziano would not name the attorney whom he says reported Cornett.

During his divorce, Cornett has been represented by Todd Spaulding of Lebanon and Scott Crosbie of Lexington.

"I want to make it completely, 100 percent clear that I knew nothing about the arrest or anything surrounding it until Thursday morning," Spaulding said.

"I in no way relayed anything to police, because I was not aware of any threats or any behavior that led to any threats."

He added that he could not speak for Crosbie.

Crosbie has not returned calls to his home or office.

Spaulding said he likes Cornett and was shocked by the allegations because of what he perceived to be Cornett's character while he was working with him.

"Everyone in my office really likes Ronnie, and he was great to work with. I can honestly say that I find it hard to believe that he would even attempt anything like what they're accusing him of, but I know nothing about the case or the details."

Earlier, Cornett's brother, sister, father and girlfriend came into the courtroom at the last minute for the arraignment; they quietly kept to themselves and sat on the back row.

The family declined to comment.

Judge Ralph McClanahan of Estill County will preside over the preliminary hearing set for 10 a.m. Monday in Boyle District Court.

Stanziano said he has no plans to request a change of venue at this time.

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