Being a ‘Witness’ May Not Keep Progress Kentucky Leader from Being Charged with a Crime

One of two members of Progress Kentucky who, by the account of a Jefferson County Democratic Party official, recorded a campaign meeting between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his campaign staff is now saying through his attorneys that he was “just a witness.”

Shawn Reilly, the executive director of Progress Kentucky, denies anything more than being at McConnell’s office when the recording happened, as first reported by WHAS 11.

His attorneys are pointing sole blame at Curtis Morrison, the second Progress Kentucky staffer who has been implicated.

(Related: Alleged McConnell Recorder Curtis Morrison Isn’t Hiding.)

Reilly’s attorneys did not return multiple calls to them.

The secret recording, which was published by Mother Jones earlier this week, could be considered eavesdropping, legal experts say.

But just being a witness to eavesdropping is murkier legal grounds, says Brendan McLeod, a Louisville criminal defense lawyer says.

McLeod says only under certain crimes would witnesses be required by law to report the crime, but eavesdropping isn’t one of them.

But Reilly could be charged with conspiracy in federal court or facilitation or complicity in state courts on the matter, McLeod says.

“They can charge you, whether they hold up or not would be ultimately up to whether the prosecution wants to move forward or  ultimately a jury of 12 people of your peers would make that determination,” he says.

But a conviction would be dependent on Reilly’s “guilty mind,” McLeod says. That means prosecutors would have to determine that Reilly had the intent or knew an illegal act was going to occur.

“It all depends on what his ultimate goal or what his object was. He has to have what they call the guilty mind,” McLeod says.

That much is unsure, but Reilly did brag to local Democratic Party member Jacob Conway about his role in the recording, Conway told WFPL last week. 

(Conway appeared to back away from parts of his story pertaining to Reilly in a Courier-Journal story, but he has reaffirmed his story to WFPL.)

Reilly also used social media to ask GOP operatives who were attending meetings at the McConnell campaign where the meetings were taking place. 

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