Organized crime charge won't fly

By Kayleigh Zyskowski Published:

A Frankfort man no longer faces a charge of organized crime after the prosecution and defense agreed there is not enough criminal evidence for the case.

County Attorney Rick Sparks and public defender Kristin Gonzalez agreed during a pretrial conference the case lacked evidence to charge Henry Earl Penn Jr. with organized crime.

Instead, Penn, 42, of 412 Harrodswood Drive, faces two counts of trafficking in Percocet and cocaine.

Deputy Matt Brown, a detective with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office who arrested and charged Penn, testified during the hearing Tuesday.

Brown explained the circumstances surrounding Penn’s arrest Sept. 8, climaxing a seven-month investigation that began in mid-February.

On Feb. 21, police sent a confidential witness about five to 10 times within that month to a trailer home on Holmes Street with a device that records audio and sound, Brown said.

The confidential witness bought two Percocet pills for $50 from Penn, Brown said.

On Feb. 25, Penn sold cocaine to the same witness, Brown said.

During the 30-minute surveillance, both days, Brown said he noticed about two to three men in the trailer and “they appeared to be playing cards.”

“Based on our video recording device, we did see our informant hand Mr. Penn money, but the video does not show the money switching hands to a separate person after that,” Brown said.

No arrests were made on Feb. 21 or 25, and Gonzalez questioned why the deputies would wait seven months before arresting Penn for the trafficking charges.

“My sole purpose was not to arrest anyone at the time, but to familiarize myself with who was at the trailer,” Brown said.

Brown says he believes Penn “was going back and forth between Franklin (County), Ky., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,” and he was involved with other individuals.

On Sept. 8, officers spotted Penn in a vehicle and followed him on Wilkinson Boulevard.

“We followed the subject, waited until we got to Boone National Guard where another officer would be present,” Brown said.

The officers stopped the vehicle and arrested Penn.

Penn did not have an illegal substance on him at the time of the arrest.

“We then took him (Penn) to Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and attempted to interview him with regards to trafficking and his cooperation and engaging in organized crime,” Brown said.

Penn declined to answer questions at the time, he said.

“We felt based on the investigation that started in February to now that we wanted to conclude our investigation and place Mr. Penn under arrest,” Brown said.

This was not the first time Brown was in contact with Penn.

Brown spoke with Penn at the address the drugs were purchased in February and over the phone once or twice.

Brown asked Penn if he was in Florida at the time, but Penn told him he was in Owenton, Brown says.

After the testimony, Franklin District Judge Kathy Mangeot found probable cause for two trafficking charges and bound the case over to a grand jury.

Mangeot reduced Penn’s $45,000 bond to $2,000.

The bond rests on conditions that he attends all pending court dates, avoids future charges and passes drug screens.

He also received bail credit for the 30 days he has served.

Neil Clark, 36, who has been charged with organized crime in a similar investigation, appeared in court for a pretrial conference Sept. 13.

Clark has been accused as being the “ring leader” of trips to Florida.

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