HAZARD — The Jury heard testimonies from seven witnesses in the criminal case against Perry County Clerk Haven King last Tuesday, both King and Kalie Bentley testified.
Prosecutors called Bentley as their first witness.
A resident of Knott County, Bentley said she was going to Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) to drop off a textbook on the day of April 27, 2015.
She was driving a red Chevrolet Cobalt owned by her grandfather, Ershel Thornsberry. The license plate on the Cobalt had a handicapped veterans plate on it.
Bentley said she frequently traveled on Hwy. 80 from Knott to Perry County because it was the fastest route for her.
On the day of the incident, Bentley said she had not encountered any problems until she reached Jamestown Village.
Heavy road construction had blocked off two lanes of traffic, one on each side of the highway.
Bentley testified that King pulled in front of her and almost t-boned her car. She said she had to swerve to miss a traffic cone.
Bentley said she honked her horn, gave King the middle finger and went on her way.
She testified that King had swerved around a car on Exit 59 in Hazard to keep up with her. She said she heard the car honk at King.
Bentley said she became nervous and terrified because she realized it was the same black Jeep that she blew her horn at and flipped off earlier.
At this point, Bentley testified that the black Jeep followed her from the traffic light at Kemper Furniture to HCTC and that at times, the black Jeep was so close that she couldn’t see the headlights of the black Jeep.
Bentley said when she had pulled into HCTC’s parking lot, that King could not immediately follow her because of a vehicle coming the opposite way at the traffic light.
She said she found the first available parking spot and pulled in. The parking spot she parked her vehicle in was not a handicapped parking spot.
When she noticed the black Jeep parking sideways behind her car, essentially blocking her in, she said she became scared to death. She couldn’t move forward because of the embankment and she couldn’t reverse because of King’s vehicle.
Bentley locked all of her doors and rolled up her windows. When King stepped out of the Jeep, he left his door open and Bentley saw something black in his hand, Bentley at first thought it was a gun.
“I expected to be killed,” said Bentley.
When she realized it was a cellphone, she rolled her windows down to talk to King and began recording the incident on the phone.
The prosecution showed the jurors two videos. One taken from HCTC’s video surveillance and another taken by Bentley on her cellphone.
The cellphone footage shows King telling Bentley she could not drive the car because of the handicapped license plate on it. King can also be heard telling her he had already ran her plates.
The footage from video surveillance from HCTC showed Bentley pulling into a parking lot and moments later King pulling behind Bentley’s car. He then gets out of the Jeep and walks over to Bentley’s car. A tree obstructs the view of King’s vehicle, except for a shadow of back end of the Jeep.
The confrontation lasted a few minutes and King is seen getting back into his Jeep and leaving.
The video shows Bentley remaining in her car for more than 20 minutes.
Bentley testified that the incident gave her a panic attack. She said she felt intimated by King and was scared to death because of King.
The incident has caused her to suffer from severe anxiety when she is on HCTC’s campus and Bentley testified this was the reason why she started taking online classes.
During the cross examination by Defense Attorney James Hampton, Hampton pointed out that if Bentley could have pulled over in a public place, besides HCTC, but didn’t.
Hampton pointed out that Bentley didn’t mention King’s driving in the video and that neither did King curse or yell at her during the recording.
Hampton asked if Bentley had retained a lawyer for possible civil case against King, which Bentley responded by saying she had.
The prosecution called Ershel Thornsberry and Lantre Combs as witnesses. Thornsberry, the grandfather of Bentley, said he called King after Bentley told him of the incident and testified that King apologized to him after Thornsberry told King he had scared Bentley.
Thornsberry said both him and King did talk of their time in the military for a short time.
Thornsberry did say that he was the one who terminated the phone call, because he had said all he wanted to say to King.
Combs, Bentley’s father like figure, said he had missed two phone calls from Bentley when he got out of the mine he was working in and learned of the incident from her. He said he had called King and King apologized to him as well. King also said if Bentley called him, King would apologize to her.
The Defense called on Monique Combs as a witness. Monique has worked in the clerk’s office for six years.
Monique said on the day of the incident, she had told King that they needed to go out and check the addresses on the voter registration cards.
This wasn’t new to her, Monique testified. She had previously checked the addresses on voter registration cards between 10 to 15 times with King.
April 27, 2015 was the deadline for the clerk’s office to send in the voter registration cards that year.
Monique mentioned to King that they needed to check the addresses on the cards several times that day before King decided to go.
That was the reason they were in Knott County at the time, Monique said.
Monique said there was a voter registration card that had a Bulan address on it. This was the reason why King and her was in Jamestown Village, Monique said. They figured out that the card went to the Knott County Clerk’s office.
On their way back to the office, Monique said King pulled onto the median on Hwy. 80. Monique said road construction had blocked two lanes of traffic on each side of the highway and that King pulled into the lane that was blocked off to get into oncoming traffic.
She said she was the one who had saw Bentley flipping King off and that King’s vehicle did not almost hit Bentley’s car.
Monique told King, “She just flipped you off.”
She said King laughed and that King told her he didn’t see Bentley flipping him off.
Monique testified she was working on paperwork and did not notice King driving any differently than he normally would.
She said King often talked on the phone during their travels together and that they would go long periods of time without speaking to one another.
Monique testified she didn’t notice Bentley’s car until the red light at Kemper Furniture and she overheard King on the phone talking about a veterans disabled licence plate.
She said she didn’t think nothing of King missing the turn off to go back to the office because one of the women in the office told King he had to go to Whitaker Bank to sign some papers that day.
When they were pulling into the parking lot of HCTC, Monique noticed it was the same car that had flipped off King earlier.
She testified that if King was driving as dangerously as the indictment claimed, she would have asked him to pull over and either let her out or let her drive the vehicle.
Monique said she couldn’t hear what King told Bentley. She also said King didn’t mention what had happened on their ride back to the office.
During cross examination, Monique told Hansen she was a little worried during the incident.
Hansen found it odd that Monique and King didn’t speak about the event and Monique said King was either always on his phone or he would go long periods of time during trips without speaking to her.
Monique testified that she wasn’t afraid of being terminated from her job and that King was a good boss.
The defense called on King as their final witness.
King was apologetic when he took the stand. He said he made a mistake and that he sincerely thought that a person who isn’t disabled, couldn’t drive a vehicle with handicapped plates unless the person who it is issued was in the vehicle.
He testified that it wasn’t his intention to intimidate or scare Bentley, that he just wanted to tell her she couldn’t drive the car.
King said he was somewhat irritated about the veterans handicapped license plate because of his work with veterans, but he wasn’t angry at Bentley.
He said he realized he made a mistake when he called a clerk in Leslie County and the clerk told him he was wrong.
King testified he made several attempts to apologize to Bentley. He said he told both Thornsberry and Combs that he would apologize to Bentley anywhere, anytime.
He said the incident has devastated him and his family. King said he feels embarrassed and that he often avoids public places because of the embarrassment.
The trial would resume the next day and jurors heard closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense before deliberating.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.