Trump-Appointed, Top Fed Law Enforcement Official In Western KY Sits Down And Talks
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
It can seem a bit intimidating when a federal SUV pulls into your parking lot as guys roll out in dark suits, but in the case of U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman and his staff members, it only took a couple minutes before I realized I was speaking with some down-to-earth guys that were very passionate in their professions.
I was contacted last week by U.S. Attorney Coleman's office Public Affair Officer Nick Storm, who wanted to schedule an interview. I figured if the PR guy has a superhero name then surely the attorney himself is legit. Once the guys rolled up and my yellow lab Sparky happily greeted them, I guessed the interview would go well. Sparky is a great judge of character and is smarter than most people I know...
After everyone introduced themselves and I took them on a quick tour of my office, we had conversations about the various items displayed on the walls and on shelves. We discussed Star Wars, The Dukes of Hazzard, UK basketball, and different types of music. These guys were dressed sharply in well-fitting suits but they quickly made themselves at home here in rural Edmonson County.
I cut right to the chase and asked Attorney Coleman point blank, "What is a U.S. Attorney and why should the readers of the Edmonson Voice care?"
He nodded and had a quick and deliberate reply.
"The meth that comes into Edmonson County doesn't always come from here," he said. "The pills that are being sold, the fentanyl, the specific high-potency drugs that are creeping into places like here, they come from outside here. We have resources to fight them at the federal level and we want to be relevant in all 53 counties."
And 53 counties is the number in his western district that spans from Casey County on the east side all the way to the western tip of Fulton County that hangs over into Missouri territory. There are more than 2 million people that reside in those counties, where Mr. Coleman oversees a staff that includes 36 attorneys, 39 non-attorney support personnel, and 7 federal contractors. His Office is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes related to firearms, narcotics, public corruption, child exploitation, wire and bank fraud, and terrorism. The Office also defends the United States in civil cases and collects debts owed to the United States.
Mr. Coleman explained the role of his office and compared it to being the federal version of the Commonwealth Attorney's. One difference of course, is that his position was appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
"You've never really sat through a meeting until you've been grilled by a senate committee led by Jeff Sessions," he said with a laugh.
He said that he felt as if his office had put all their focus on Louisville-only in the past, and while it's certainly a hub of drugs, gangs, and guns, reaching out to rural Kentucky was also important.
"We have a commitment to working with local guys like your Commonwealth Attorney Blake Chambers and Sheriff Shane Doyle, and all local law enforcement," he said. "We're going to be a better partner to local prosecutors and law enforcement."
Mr. Coleman said he is focused on getting "the bigger bad guys," that cause crime to trickle down into the areas like Edmonson County.
"The most serious crimes are focused around drugs, guns, and technology, and we're going to prosecute those cases and get those guys. Some of theses guys are the worst of the worst...the child crimes that are simply horrific. We're able to send these guys away for decades. If we do that, then we're keeping some of this stuff from making its way into your community. Our job is not to be a federal overlay of your local guys, it's to get these bigger bad guys out of your communities."
He was complimentary to the two guys with him, the first was his Law Enforcement Coordinator, Sergeant Eric Black (Retired), previously of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Sgt. Black was first hired as a police officer with the Jefferson County Police Department in 1995. His role is basically that of a liaison between the U.S. Attorney's office and state and local law enforcement issues. Sgt. Black has an impressive resume that stretches from being a patrol officer all the way to leading a multi-agency drug task force (2018's Drug Task Force Officer of the Year).
His public affairs officer, Nick Storm (I can't help but hearing his name in my head being read from the deep, scratchy voice of a movie trailer narrator--"NICK STORM") is a two-time Emmy nominated journalist, and a former anchor and managing editor of Spectrum News Pure Politics. I've talked with lots of PR folks in my line of work, many at the state level. Nick didn't seem as "slick" as many of them are, which is a total compliment.
Mr. Coleman made several references to growing up in rural KY and his roots in Logan and Daviess counties, and he even made a tobacco barn reference that one would only know if they had actual experience working in one. He and his team were gracious and thanked me for my time and for the opportunity to help him reach out to Edmonson County.
"By this Friday, we will have made it to all 53 counties in the district," he said. "That doesn't deserve credit, it's just the right thing to do. We're trying to build trust in all of these counties. We want to work with your local guys and we want to be good stewards with our federal resources. It's a privilege to be able to use that to work with local law enforcement."