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From left to right: Mark Kopp, Whitney Allison and Todd Smith.

The attempted bribery case against the Franklin County Schools superintendent was dismissed without prejudice in Franklin County District Court on Tuesday. 

Superintendent Mark Kopp was charged with attempted bribery of a public servant, which was listed as a Class A misdemeanor on the indictment in September. Attempted bribery is a Class C felony, according to state law. Kopp appeared in court on Tuesday for a pretrial conference.

District Court Judge Kathy Mangeot dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that the case could be revived in Franklin County Circuit Court. She said that she would dismiss the charge as written, because the case says that the charge is a misdemeanor. Kentucky district courts hear misdemeanors and circuit courts hear felonies. 

“I think what’s in front of me on paper is a misdemeanor. We all agree that this is not a misdemeanor,” Mangeot said. 

Because she granted the dismissal without prejudice, the case could be renewed in circuit court. 

Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland said he would speak with Chappell and Sparks before determining whether the case would return to circuit court. A new grand jury has been seated since Kopp was originally indicted in September, so a new panel would review the case, he said. 

Cleveland said that since there is no statute of limitations on felonies, the case could be renewed at any time, but he predicted that if it moved forward, the case would return to circuit court later this year. 

Lawyers for Kopp from the Lexington firm Miller, Griffin and Marks previously filed a motion to dismiss the case, not based on how the indictment was written but rather arguing that the superintendent did not commit the act of attempted bribery. In court, defense attorney Elliot Miller argued that Kopp had not committed the act of bribery according to the statute because Kopp had not given Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Montey Chappell, who was in court on Tuesday, a pecuniary benefit, or something that has a monetary value, and because the deputy alleged that the favor was asked in return for something that already happened. Miller cited Chappell’s report about a meeting between Kopp and the deputy in which he alleges that Kopp pressured him to make a case against a middle school principal go away. 

“We are happy that the case was appropriately dismissed,” Elliot said following Tuesday’s court proceedings. He said that if the case is revived in circuit court, he is “confident” Kopp will be cleared. 

County Attorney Rick Sparks, the prosecutor in the district court case, argued Tuesday that the case should be returned to circuit court, as district court did not have jurisdiction to hear a bribery case, which falls under felony statutes. 

“The General Assembly has determined that there is not now, nor shall ever be criminal attempt to commit bribery. It’s either bribery or not, and it’s a felony either way. This matter is improperly before this court… because it is a felony,” Sparks said in court. 

Sparks said after the pretrial conference that he’s never seen a case like this in his career. Felonies do not normally come before district court as misdemeanors, he said. 

In another case related to Kopp’s, Bondurant Middle School Principal Whitney Allison appeared in court for a pretrial conference Tuesday on a charge of failure to report, a misdemeanor. She now has a second pretrial conference scheduled in January. 

Both cases against the school officials stem from an investigation of former BMS teacher Todd Smith, who faces two felony charges of first-degree sexual abuse of persons under the age of 16.

 

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