A former Assistant Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney who his now at the Kentucky Attorney General’s office and who withheld exculpatory evidence in a murder case is under scrutiny again following allegations that he used his prosecutorial power to bully a witness in that same case.
By the admission of his own former office, prosecutor Tom Van De Rostyne tampered with and suppressed an interview with defendant Dejuan Hammond’s former girlfriend, who has since agreed to testify for the state against Hammond at trial (see previous post here). In the suppressed interview, Hammond’s girlfriend, Princess Bolin, told police that she and Hammond were at the mall at the time of the murder.
Now, Bolin’s attorney has filed a motion alleging that Van De Rostyne “improperly and vindictively” filed and increased the seriousness of drug charges against Bolin in order to force her to testify against Hammond at trial. The motion requests that Bolin’s drug convictions – for which she is currently on probation, and which amount to 18 years in prison if she violates probation – be overturned. WDRB outlines the troubling allegations:
Besides treating her more harshly than other first time drug offenders, Van De Rostyne sought repeated indictments against Bolin, ensuring she was incarcerated or on home incarceration for years, according to defense attorney Ryan Vantrease.
… According to Vantrease’s motion, on June 11, 2011, Van De Rostyne took the “extraordinary” step of appearing in district court for Bolin’s arraignment on a drug possession charge and later had those charged amended to trafficking.
“Finally, after numerous indictments, after numerous years of incarceration on HIP and in prison, Mr. Van De Rostyne convinced” Bolin to give police a statement that “presumably” led to the indictment of Hammond, Vantrease wrote in his motion.
After that, Van De Rostyne did not seek any more charges against Bolin, Vantrease wrote.
Bolin held out for a significant period of time – more than two years – before switching her story to implicate Hammond. Van De Rostyne has already admitted in a taped conversation with a police detective that Hammond’s “whole case depends” on Bolin’s testimony, complaining, “that bitch has been worthless” in reference to her role as a state witness.
The Courier-Journal details how Van De Rostyne worked his way into a position where he could personally exert his prosecutorial power over her:
Bolin has testified at a series of trials that she was threatened by Van De Rostyne. She said he told her “he was going to make my life a living hell” if she didn’t help him convict Hammond.
… She was indicted in November 2008, a few months before the Sheckles murder, on drug trafficking charges, tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a minor. Sheckles was killed in March 2009, and the following month Van De Rostyne secured an additional indictment against her, and in doing so adopted the first case as well.
… Van De Rostyne refused to make her a plea offer, and she was sentenced to 15 years in prison though she was a first-time offender, Vantrease wrote.
“The history of the defendant’s case is overflowing with circumstances that stray far from the norm of what a typical defendant may experience as a similar person indicted in Jefferson County as a first time drug charge offender,” Vantrease wrote.
She was released on shock probation and Van De Rostyne indicted her again.
Hammond is facing his third trial, which began Tuesday, following two previously failed attempts by the state to convict him. His first trial failed to proceed when the state was unable to locate two key witnesses, and the second fell apart in April this year when the suppressed Bolin interview came to light. Prosecutors filed for Bolin’s probation to be revoked a month after the second trial, according to The Courier-Journal. At the time of the previous trials, Van De Rostyne was running for Commonwealth’s Attorney. He lost, and was subsequently fired.
Bolin is expected to testify for the state in Hammond’s current trial tomorrow.