Ex-Louisville police officer pleads guilty to Breonna Taylor cover-up

FILE PHOTO - Gathering to mark two years since police officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky
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By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A former Louisville detective pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to helping falsify a search warrant that led to the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose death fueled a wave of protests over police violence against people of color.

The former officer, Kelly Goodlett, entered her plea before U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings in a federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, court records showed.

Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, becoming the first officer to be held criminally responsible for the botched raid. Goodlett was accused of conspiring with another detective to falsify the warrant that led to the raid and covering up the falsification.

The 35-year-old could face five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release when she is sentenced. A sentencing hearing was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 22, the Courier Journal in Louisville reported.

Related video: Kelly Goodlett pleads guilty to a conspiracy charge

Goodlett, who appeared with her attorney Brandon Marshall, was ordered to surrender her passport, the newspaper reported.

Prosecutors and her attorney were not immediately available for comment.

Goodlett was one of four former Louisville Metropolitan Police Department detectives charged by the U.S. Justice Department on Aug. 4 for their involvement in the 2020 raid that killed Taylor in her home.

The charges represented the Justice Department's latest attempt to crack down on abuses and racial disparities in policing, following a series of high-profile police killings of Black Americans across the country.

The killing of Taylor, along with other 2020 killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, among others, sparked outrage and galvanized protests that peaked in intensity during that summer.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was asleep with her boyfriend on March 13, 2020, when police conducted a no-knock raid and burst into her apartment. Taylor's boyfriend fired once at what he said he believed were intruders. Three police officers responded with 32 shots, six of which struck Taylor, killing her.

Goodlett and a fellow former officer, Joshua Jaynes, met days after the shooting in a garage where they agreed on a false story to cover for the false evidence they had submitted to justify the botched raid, prosecutors say.

Federal prosecutors also charged Jaynes and current Sergeant Kyle Meany with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice for using false information to obtain the search warrant.

A fourth officer, former Detective Brett Hankison, was charged with civil rights violations for allegedly using excessive force.

In March, a jury acquitted Hankison on a charge of wanton endangerment. A grand jury earlier cleared the other two white officers who shot Taylor but charged Hankison for endangering neighbors in the adjacent apartment.

A grand juror on the case later said Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is now running for governor, only presented the wanton endangerment charges against Hankison to the grand jury.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in ChicagoEditing by Alistair Bell and Paul Thomasch)