It took Louisville police and prosecutors two months to decide that former prosecutor Matt Conway, brother of state Attorney General Jack Conway, should be charged with criminal assault after he allegedly struck a woman in the face in an argument following a Christmas party.
In the interim, both the woman and the Louisville Metro Police detective investigating the case sought unsuccessfully to get a criminal charge filed against Matt Conway.
The delay led the alleged victim, Chastity Brown, and her attorney, Frank Mascagni, to question whether it was related to Conway’s political connections.
Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, said Tuesday that the length of time it took to obtain the assault charge was simply the result of prosecutors and police making sure that the investigation was thorough and that a criminal filing was indeed warranted.
Conway is a former assistant county attorney and a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney, as well as the attorney general’s brother. Halladay said prosecutors were mindful of those connections, but influenced by them only to the extent that they wanted to make certain that their decision was the correct one.
“Obviously we know who he is and that he worked here,” Halladay said. “But we have not been contacted by anyone asking us not to do anything, or to do anything different. We just asked for additional investigation to make sure that we had a solid case before moving forward. I think we handled it properly.”
Conway could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He did not respond to a message left on his cell phone.
Brown said in an interview Tuesday that she thought Conway should have been arrested at the scene, and that she was frustrated after making two trips to the county attorney’s office seeking to prosecute Conway, only to be told that a police detective would be in touch with her.
While riding in a limousine with several other people on Dec. 20, Brown and Conway argued before the driver stopped the car and pulled Brown outside, according to the criminal summons issued for Conway last Friday.
Conway also got out of the car, then “reached past” the driver and struck Brown once in the face with a closed fist, the summons alleges. The altercation bloodied her nose and caused swelling to her face, Brown said Tuesday.
She said she had no idea why Conway struck her and that the altercation began when he “started calling me names.” No one else in the limousine, whose other passengers included Conway’s wife, sought to intervene, Brown said.
“If it had been me, I don’t think I would have been allowed to leave. I think I would have been arrested if I had punched someone in the face,” Brown said.
LMPD spokesman Dwight Mitchell said—and Mascagni agreed—that it is left to the officer’s discretion whether to make an immediate arrest for a misdemeanor offense that the officer did not witness.
Brown said she and Matthew Montfort, the LMPD detective who investigated the case, spoke several times after her unsuccessful visits to the courthouse. But Brown said she still wondered why it took so long for a criminal charge to result, and whether the delay was due to Conway’s notoriety.
“That certainly is something that has crossed my mind,” said Brown, who formerly worked full-time as a secretary in Mascagni’s office and still works there on a part-time basis.
Mascagni, a veteran criminal-defense attorney, said Tuesday that he was puzzled by the amount of time spent on the police investigation before the filing of the assault charge against Conway. Typically, he said, a decision whether or not to file a criminal charge is made “rather quickly” after an alleged victim files a complaint.
It is, he said, “very unusual” for such a painstaking investigation to happen following a complaint.
Mascagni said he knew of no untoward influence brought to bear in the case. But he said he wondered whether Conway’s occupation and connections caused police and prosecutors “to be slow and cautious, because of who was involved as the suspect.”
Halladay acknowledged that Matt Conway’s family connections and prior employment in the county attorney’s office may have caused prosecutors to pay some “additional attention” to making sure the case was solid. But she said it is common practice for them to request additional investigation by police.
“Our job is to screen,” she said. “We don’t want to issue a warrant if there’s no case.”
Consideration also was given to the possibility of requesting a special prosecutor to handle the case, which took some additional time, Halladay said, but that ultimately was deemed unnecessary because Conway has not worked in the county attorney’s office “for some time.”
After prosecutors concluded that a criminal charge was warranted, the case was sent to a district court judge for review and approval. Once that authorization was obtained, the summons was issued. No court date has yet been set for Conway.
Conway, who is now in private practice, resigned from the commonwealth’s attorney’s office in 2011. The previous year, he was disciplined for lying to LMPD officers during an internal police investigation into officers tipping him off to the fact that he was the subject of drug investigations. He was never charged.
This story was reported by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, part of Louisville Public Media.
R.G. Dunlop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6533.