FBI agent is suing Central Ky. police officers as he faces federal firearms charges

An FBI special agent who previously faced domestic violence charges but wasn’t indicted now faces new federal charges — and he’s suing the local police department that previously charged him.

Michael Van Aelstyn, 45, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Coleman Sparks and Scott Carnes of the Versailles Police Department for allegedly violating his civil rights.

Van Aelstyn was charged with assault and strangulation on July 9, 2021, following allegations of domestic violence in Woodford County. The charges against him were dismissed without prejudice when a Woodford County grand jury did not indict him.

While those charges were dismissed, Van Aelstyn has been federally indicted on firearms charges. In an indictment filed into court records Thursday, Van Aelstyn was charged with possession of a firearm made in violation of the National Firearms Act, possession of an unregistered firearm, and unlawful transfer of a firearm to an out-of-state resident.

The indictment alleged that Van Aelstyn had a Winchester 20-gauge shotgun Model 1400 Ranger with a barrel less than 18 inches long, which is considered a “short-barreled shotgun” and violates federal firearm law. Van Aelstyn had the gun from October 2020 until July 9, 2021, the day police showed up to his home, according to the indictment.

That same gun was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, according to the indictment.

Van Aelstyn is also charged with unlawfully transferring a gun to an out-of-state resident. He gave an AM-15 multi-caliber rifle to another person without being a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer or collector, according to the indictment.

If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison for all three charges, $270,000 in fines, and supervised release for up to nine years.

He is scheduled to be arraigned June 22 in a federal courtroom in Covington.

It is unclear if Van Aelstyn faces any discipline from the FBI in light of his new charges. A spokesperson said the FBI’s Louisville office is aware of the new indictment.

“FBI Louisville is aware of the indictment and has fully cooperated with the investigation. In accordance with FBI policy, the incident is subject to internal review,” said Katie Anderson, spokesperson with the FBI Louisville office. “We hold ourselves to the highest standard, and our focus will remain on our mission and on doing the right thing, in the right way, every time.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karl Kadon was not able to comment on the charges against Van Aelstyn.

FBI agent alleges cops ‘intentionally disregarded’ evidence

Van Aelstyn’s lawsuit, which he filed last week, alleges Carnes and Sparks continually violated his rights by pursuing a criminal complaint against him, including testifying or presenting to the grand jury without reviewing or presenting evidence which would demonstrate his innocence.

In the lawsuit, Van Aelstyn alleges the officers did not address discrepancies in the story of the woman he was accused of assaulting, and says they convinced her to file a report despite her repeated statements she did not want to file one.

Van Aelstyn’s lawsuit accuses the woman of being the aggressor in the July 2021 incident. He alleges she physically attacked, struck, punched and kicked him repeatedly.

Court documents state that during this encounter, the woman was on the phone with a family member falsely saying that Van Aelstyn was choking her. Fearing he would be set up, Van Aelstyn began an audio recording of the incident on his phone which he said contained “plenty” of evidence against the woman, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the Versailles officers declined to listen to the recording. Van Aelstyn alleges in court documents he offered the officers a copy of the recording.

“The officers of the Versailles Police Department declined to review the audio recording and did not request a copy of same,” the lawsuit reads. “To date, neither of the defendants have requested a copy of Van Aelstyn’s audio recording.”

In addition, no photos were taken of Van Aelstyn by officers, despite visible marks and scratches, according to court documents. Officers did take photos of the woman.

“It can be reasonably inferred that they intentionally disregarded such evidence in determining whether to continue the investigation of the allegations made against Van Aelstyn,” court documents state.

The lawsuit alleges the photos taken were blurry, unstable and consisted of random items in the room. The lawsuit suggested this reflected the lack of thoroughness in the investigation.

“Upon information and belief, said officers intentionally took low quality photos to obscure the weakness of (the woman’s) case,” court documents state.

Sparks and Coleman were not immediately available for comment on Monday morning.

Van Aelstyn said the dismissed claims of assault and domestic violence negatively impacted his work as a federal agent, according to the lawsuit. He was placed on administrative duty within his office, deprived of an expected promotion, and requested for termination by the deputy director of the FBI.

He is seeking nearly $1 million in damages. Van Aelstyn’s attorney in the lawsuit was not immediately available for comment Monday morning.