Paperwork error led to three days in jail for Boyle man

Published 8:00 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

Daniel Cooke says he spent the last three days of 2018 naked, locked in a suicide cell at the Boyle County Detention Center. Even worse, Cooke and his attorney, public defender Jessica Buck, say he shouldn’t have been in the jail at all — that a paperwork error led to his incarceration, and a delay in reaching the judge kept him there.

Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler, who signed the bench warrant to put Cooke back in jail, said this week he has asked the state Administrative Office of the Courts to investigate why the local Pretrial Services office filed an affidavit stating Cooke had missed a drug test when no drug testing was required as a condition of Cooke’s release.

“The man apparently was not supposed to do whatever pretrial said he was supposed to do,” Peckler said. “I have no clue (how it happened). I’m guessing it’s something mixed up in the paperwork. If you just want my guess now, somebody just crossed paperwork with somebody else.”

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Peckler said he wonders if there is someone else out on bond who should be getting drug tested and isn’t.

Court records show Cooke was released on an unsecured bond set by Peckler in early December. He is facing charges of wanton endangerment and unlawful imprisonment stemming from a Sept. 21 domestic incident.

The bond conditions set by Peckler included “no new arrest; no alcohol or illegal substances; no narcotic pain medication, with or without prescription, without prior court approval … no possession of weapons; maintain medications …” but did not outline any requirements for drug testing.

But on Dec. 17, Pretrial Services Representative Meghan Patrick signed an affidavit stating that Cooke was a “no call, no show” for a drug screening on Dec. 14.

On Dec. 26, Peckler ordered that Cooke be charged with contempt of court and a bench warrant be issued for his arrest, based on the pretrial affidavit.

Cooke was jailed on Dec. 28.

“It was a rough time in there,” Cooke said, explaining that he was kept in the jail’s “suicide cell.”

“I wasn’t trying to commit suicide or anything, they just did that from where I got arrested in September — I had a mental health issue at that time,” he said.

Cooke said he wasn’t allowed to wear clothes during his time in jail and he feels deputies treated him poorly, in ways that added to his distress.

“I missed my family a lot,” he said. “I’m trying to find a job, but it’s really hard.”

Cooke said he remembers when he visited Pretrial Services after being released that an employee “gave me the paperwork … and he started to say, ‘drug testing.’ I remembered the judge telling me I didn’t have to do that because nothing in my case warrants that.”

He told the pretrial employee to check and the employee came back and “whited out something and signed his name. I guess they didn’t put it into the computer or whatever and so to my surprise, I’m getting arrested.”

Cooke’s attorney Buck said what happened was “someone incorrectly entered the bond conditions, which triggered Guardian, which does the drug testing, to tell Pretrial Services that they had violated the bond conditions, and then Pretrial Services issued an affidavit.”

Peckler then signed the order to arrest Cooke. But when the error was discovered, after Cooke was arrested Dec. 28, Peckler couldn’t be reached, Buck said.

“Pretrial Services and I both drove to our respective offices that night (of Cooke’s arrest) to try to confirm it was a mistake and work on getting him released,” she said. “I was told Pretrial Services contacted Judge Peckler to ask for his release. They had to leave a message is what I was told.”

“I was gone visiting family over those holidays and I didn’t find out about it until I got back after the new year,” Peckler said. “I never found out about him (Cooke) until I got back here to Kentucky — New Year’s Day, I suppose.”

Peckler said there was a voicemail about the situation on his office phone.

By then, Cooke’s family had managed to gather enough money to pay the new $500 bond and filing fee to get him released from jail again. Cooke was able to leave on New Year’s Eve, around 3 p.m., Buck said.

“I think that this is an unfortunate incident and I’m glad that my client was able to get the money up to bond out. But I imagine if he hadn’t, he would have spent even more time in jail,” Buck said. “It was very disruptive to him and his family and I feel very bad that this happened to him and that there wasn’t more I could do to help.”

Buck said Cooke has been willing to talk about what happened to him publicly because “more than anything else, he just doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Buck said she knows “mistakes get made.”

“I’ve certainly seen bond conditions be entered incorrectly,” she said. “I’ve never had a client stay in custody that long because we were unable to (get it corrected).”

Peckler has since signed a pair of orders returning Cooke’s bond money and dismissing the contempt charge. Buck said the order includes returning the filing fees paid with the bond money — an unusual step, but appropriate in this situation.

Peckler said this is the first case he has ever had to “turn in” to the state to figure out what happened.

“I called Frankfort the other day and had them send somebody down to investigate why they (Pretrial Services) turned him in,” Peckler said.

A Pretrial Services employee said the agency could not comment due to policy and state law.

Asked about signing the warrant for Cooke’s arrest due to the alleged missed drug screen, Peckler noted he signs anywhere from 15 to 20 bench warrants at a time from Pretrial Services and can’t double-check every one.

“That’s what pretrial is supposed to do. I think that’s why they pay them,” Peckler said. “… I have to rely on them to let me know what’s going on.”

AOC spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hiatt confirmed Friday that “The Department of Pretrial Services is checking into this matter and I should have more information next week.”