Former Louisville Metro Police Department Detective Kelly Goodlett pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge in federal court Tuesday, becoming the first officer who will be convicted for their role in the deadly 2020 raid on Breonna Taylor’s home.
Goodlett, 35, resigned from the police department on Aug. 5, the day after the U.S. Department of Justice announced federal charges against her and three other Louisville police officers. The felony conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Goodlett’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 21, but attorneys indicated in court that hearing may be pushed back.
The DOJ alleged that Goodlett, along with her partner Joshua Jaynes, knowingly provided false information to a judge in order to secure the search warrant for Taylor’s apartment. The two falsely claimed they had verified with a U.S. Postal Inspector that Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who was the subject of a narcotics investigation, was getting packages delivered to Taylor’s home. Then, in the two months following Taylor’s killing, prosecutors said Goodlett and Jaynes concocted a cover story to feed investigators through text messages, phone calls and a secret meeting in Jaynes’ garage.
Goodlett did not address the public or Taylor’s family at Tuesday’s hearing, only answering “yes” when asked by Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings whether she understood her rights and the ramifications of pleading guilty.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, sat in the gallery during the proceedings. She wore a dark blue shirt with “Say her name” emblazoned on the back, a refrain re-popularized during the racial justice protests sparked, in part, by Taylor’s killing.
As Goodlett responded in the affirmative to each of the individual allegations against her, Palmer bowed her head and wiped away tears.
Palmer, lawyers for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Goodlett’s attorney, Brandon Marshall of Lexington, did not speak to reporters following Tuesday’s hearing.
Although prosecutors have not confirmed it, there’s reason to believe that Goodlett took a plea deal in exchange for providing information to federal prosecutors.
Goodlett faced just one conspiracy charge, while the other LMPD officers involved in the search warrant application — Jaynes and former Sgt. Kyle Meany — were charged with falsifying records, making false statements to federal investigators, conspiracy and civil rights violations.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represented Taylor’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, has claimed Goodlett is cooperating with the feds and her testimony has been “pivotal” to the investigation.
“It’s really a ‘Serpico’ moment, when you have an officer who finally starts telling on everybody and how they conspired together to cover up the murder this innocent Black woman,” Crump said earlier this month, making reference to a 1973 film about a whistle-blowing police officer in New York City.
Jaynes’ attorney, Thomas Clay, also said a separate LMPD scandal regarding officers throwing slushies at random residents may have added to the pressure on Goodlett to cooperate.
The extent to which Goodlett cooperated with federal investigators still remained unclear after her guilty plea on Tuesday. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors said they would not bring additional charges against Goodlett based on the existing evidence. There was no information provided in open court about whether Goodlett plans to testify against the other three LMPD officers under federal indictment. Part of the plea agreement is still under seal.
Other officers headed to trial
Both Jaynes and Meany pleaded not guilty to the four charges they’re facing.
Jaynes was the officer who prepared the search warrant application alongside Goodlett, and Meany was their supervisor. All three worked in LMPD’s Placed Based Investigations Unit, which focused on interrupting drug trafficking and violent crime and has since been disbanded. That unit was responsible for the narcotics investigation that led to Taylor’s killing.
Jaynes was fired from the department in Jan. 2021 and lost two subsequent employment appeals. Meany was still employed by LMPD when the federal indictments came down, but was fired last week.
Former LMPD detective Brett Hankison also pleaded not guilty to charges that he used unconstitutional excessive force when he shot blindly into Taylor’s apartment. Hankison is the only officer under federal indictment who actually participated in the middle-of-the-night raid on Taylor’s home.
As police attempted to bust down Taylor’s door, her boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot once at them. Walker later said he thought they were intruders. Prosecutors allege Hankison responded by firing multiple bullets through a covered patio door and bedroom window, endangering Taylor and her neighbors in the apartment complex.
Hankison was indicted on state-level charges for the same actions in Sept. 2020, for alleged wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors. A 12-member jury acquitted him in March.
The case against Jaynes and Meany is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 11. Hankison’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 13.