Former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett intends to plead guilty this month to federal charges in connection to the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, marking what would be the first conviction in a case that sparked months of racial justice protests in that city and across the country.
Goodlett and her attorney, Brandon Marshall, along with Mike Songer, an attorney representing the Justice Department, confirmed her plea agreement during an online court hearing Friday before Magistrate Judge Regina S. Edwards in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Kentucky. Edwards set an in-person hearing Aug. 22 to entertain that plea and released Goodlett on a $10,000 bond.
Goodlett is accused of helping falsify a search warrant and filing a false report to cover it up, which could carry a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Her testimony could be crucial as federal prosecutors pursue charges against three others – Sgt. Kyle Meany, former detective Joshua Jaynes and former detective Brett Hankison. They are charged with more serious civil rights offenses and could face life sentences if convicted.
Goodlett resigned from the police department last week after she and her three former colleagues were charged in connection with Taylor’s death in March 2020. But unlike the others – Goodlett was not indicted. Rather, her charges were filed in a sealed “information,” which analysts said usually indicates a defendant has agreed to a plea deal with the government.
Meany, Jaynes and Hankison have pleaded not guilty, court records show.
Only Hankinson was charged at the state level in connection with the fatal shooting, which was a catalyst for the massive racial justice protests that swept the nation in 2020. A jury acquitted him of wanton endangerment for shots that entered a neighboring apartment.
The federal government is trying a different approach, charging current and former Louisville police in connection with what court filings allege as an overzealous and imperious narcotics investigations unit that used reckless tactics and knowingly put local residents in danger with no legal justification.
Hankison is charged with violating the civil rights of Taylor, her boyfriend and their neighbors when he allegedly fired several shots through a bedroom window and through a sliding-glass door – both of which were covered with blinds and a curtain.
The federal case, built on an extensive FBI investigation, also targets three defendants who were not directly involved in the raid on Taylor’s apartment. Like Goodlett, Jaynes and Meany are charged with falsifying the search warrant affidavit as part of a Place-Based Investigations unit. Prosecutors allege that the two men knowingly included outdated and false information.
Although Goodlett’s file remains sealed, the Justice Department said in a news release that she conspired with Jaynes twice: first on the affidavit; and again after Taylor’s shooting, to try to cover up the alleged disinformation.
Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said the prosecutors’ decision to focus much of their legal attention on the preparation of the affidavit, rather than the shooting of Taylor, could offer better prospects for a conviction, since the criminal justice system broadly protects the use of force by police who believe they are in danger.
Taylor, 26, was killed when plainclothes police officers burst into her apartment to carry out a search warrant in a drug probe. Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, fired a shot with his legally owned gun, striking an officer in the leg. He later said he did not realize the people who had entered the apartment were law enforcement officers. Several officers shot back, killing Taylor.
Investigators believe the fatal shots were fired by Myles Cosgrove, who was fired by the department but not criminally charged.
The Justice Department strategy “was a clever one,” McQuade said.
“There was a shooting, and someone died, and perhaps it was a crime, but it’s very difficult, as everyone knows, to prove a case in a police shooting because police officers have the authority to use deadly force,” McQuade explained. “To focus on the shooting itself was unlikely to go anywhere. What Justice did here was go back a step.”
Thomas Clay, an attorney for Jaynes, said he’s concerned about the possibility that Goodlett may have provided information to prosecutors. He said the federal government should not be prosecuting anyone involved in the case – especially not those who applied for the warrant.
“The reaction I’ve gotten from people in the law enforcement community has been pretty much shock and outrage,” Clay said. “They think that these prosecutions are unjustified and they’re politically motivated.”
Attorneys for Meany did not respond to requests for comment. Court records do not list lawyers for Goodlett and Hankison.
The federal prosecution will also rekindle the spotlight on Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who was criticized for his handling of the case at the state level and now is running for governor.
Attorney Kevin Glogower represents three former grand jurors who faulted Cameron for limiting the state probe of Taylor’s death to the shooting itself and not allowing them to consider broader charges, including related to the creation of the search warrant. Glogower said he spoke to two of those jurors after the federal charges were announced, and they expressed feelings of validation.
“They were like, ‘We told you so,’ ” Glogower said.
Although attorneys for Kenneth Walker, who was Taylor’s boyfriend, are pursuing a civil lawsuit against the former officers, Glogower said he does not expect more criminal charges.
“The question we have in the community is, ‘Does this show us anything for the pattern or practice investigation?’ ” Glogower said, referring to the Justice Department’s ongoing civil probe into the Louisville police department. That investigation, launched last year, is likely to lead to a court-ordered consent decree that will mandate a broad set of changes.
Walker, through his attorney, said in a statement that the charging of the four officers by the Justice Department was “bittersweet because, regardless, Bre isn’t coming back.”
“I want to thank the FBI and DOJ for believing me and for their honest commitment to justice,” he said. “And I want to thank everyone who has been saying Breonna’s name since the beginning and everyone who continues to say it as this fight continues.”
Cameron, who is vying for a chance to unseat Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in next year’s election, has defended his handling of Taylor’s case, saying his office had been tasked only with determining whether the officers who carried out the search warrant were criminally responsible for Taylor’s death.
Representatives of Cameron’s office and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment. But in a statement after the federal charges were announced, he urged people not to “conflate what happened today with the state law investigation undertaken by our office.”
“There are those … who want to use this moment to divide Kentuckians, misrepresent the facts of the state investigation, and broadly impugn the character of our law enforcement community,” Cameron said in the statement. “I won’t participate in that sort of rancor.”
Before the federal indictments were announced, Taylor’s family had called for all the officers involved in the raid to be charged, said Ben Crump, an attorney for the family.
“Anybody who pulled the trigger or a bullet hit Breonna Taylor, especially since the family believes that the officers should have never been at her apartment,” he said. “With that said, the family is grateful that the Department of Justice did bring some charges.”
Cliff Sloan, a Georgetown law teacher who is helping represent Walker, said the federal intervention “is exactly the important role that the Department of Justice can and should play in a case like this – vindicating very important constitutional principles and very important civil rights protections, and when it does seem like there was inadequate enforcement on the state and local level.”