Investigations

Western Kentucky businessman Billy Joe Miles will stand trial in September, following a judge’s ruling that he is mentally competent to defend himself against accusations of rape, sodomy and attempted bribery.

While the 77-year-old Miles unquestionably suffers from dementia, he is still capable of understanding the charges against him as well as “the process for the determining those charges,” Hardin Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton wrote in a 12-page ruling issued Friday.

Experts retained by the prosecution and defense disagreed about the effects of Miles’ mental state. But Easton said he found the prosecution’s witness more persuasive.

Miles has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys either declined to comment Monday on Easton’s ruling or else could not be reached. Miles’ accuser, who was working as his caregiver at the time of the alleged sexual assault last July 2, also could not be reached.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found that Miles’ prosecution had tested the credibility of a criminal justice system when the defendant has connections in high places. His accuser had a hammer thrown through her car windshield and weathered a series of other intimidating incidents and threats.

Easton took over the case after both circuit judges in Daviess County stepped aside to avoid possible conflicts of interest. The commonwealth’s attorney did likewise. But Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain’s office handled the investigation of Miles, even though the two men are friends. And the sheriff took steps that threatened to undermine the prosecution, KyCIR found.

Daviess County

Few in positions of power in Daviess County and the surrounding area could count Miles a complete stranger — or trump his stature. His money comes from well-known farming and fuel companies, including Miles Farm Supply and Miles L.P. Gas.

He has served three terms on the University of Kentucky board of trustees, and is a member of Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni. One of his two daughters, Suzanne Miles, is a state representative who represents Union County and parts of Daviess and Henderson counties.

His accuser, by contrast, has a far lower profile. She has worked two and three jobs, sometimes logging up to 20 hours a day without sleep, just to make ends meet.

“I’ve had my world turned upside down,” the 30-year-old woman said in an interview earlier this year. She agreed to talk about her experiences as long as her name was not made public. KyCIR does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

Threats against her started last September 7, exactly one day after a Daviess County grand jury indicted Miles. The messages signaled that she could die for testifying against him.

KyCIR reported:

She received a Facebook message with a photo of her attached, calling her a liar. It was from one of Miles’ employees, according to court records.
Later, she found threats scrawled on her car, including one that said, “last warning, no cops, you will die.”

Miles’ accuser was driving alone down the highway when a hammer hurled from a passing vehicle shattered her windshield. She replaced the glass. Someone carved “lying bitch” into the paint. She left the words there.

The vandalism didn’t last, because soon after, her car burst into flames as she was driving home late one night from a work assignment. The fire, which destroyed the vehicle, remains under investigation.

The woman also received six calls in three minutes from the phone of one of Miles’ daughters, according to prosecutors, who cited cell phone records. Minutes later the accuser’s house alarm sounded. Police found a window raised.

Cain readily acknowledged to KyCIR that Miles was a personal friend, that he had received a campaign contribution from him in 2014 and that he had traveled to South America at Miles’ expense in 2008 or 2009.

Cain also acknowledged reading reports on the investigation and discussing the case with his staff. He admitted writing a letter to Attorney General Andy Beshear, challenging the honesty of Miles’ accuser, as well as calling Beshear to complain about the prosecutor his office had assigned to the case.

The sheriff denied that he had handled the case improperly, or that his impartiality was subject to question. But several criminal-justice and law-enforcement authorities said Cain should have handed off the rape investigation to another law enforcement agency as soon as he became aware that Miles was a suspect.

R.G. Dunlop can be reached at rdunlop@kycir.org or (502) 814.6533. 

R.G. Dunlop is an investigative reporter whose work has exposed government corruption and resulted in numerous reforms.