Prosecutors Drop Robbery Charges In County Commissioner Case
HOPKINSVILLE, KY -- A man accused of trying to carjack a Rutherford County commissioner won't be going to prison.
Prosecutors backed away from robbery charges Wednesday, following questions raised by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
The case stems from an apparent suicide attempt by the commissioner's roommate.
For the past year, that roommate, Kenneth Cooper, had been locked up on robbery charges filed by the county commissioner Matthew Young.
Cooper returned to a Hopkinsville courtroom where he had once faced a potential 20 years in prison for the attempted robbery of Young, a Rutherford County commissioner and Murfreesboro firefighter.
Young had driven Cooper last December to the Kentucky welcome center near Clarksville. Cooper pulled a gun inside the county commissioner's car and threatened to kill himself. Young later claimed that Cooper had also tried to take the car at gunpoint.
"I don't remember what happened that day," Cooper told NewsChannel 5 back in August.
But Cooper had claimed that Young, far from being a victim, had been one of three men who had previously tortured him over a business deal gone bad. He made the same allegation in a handwritten letter to the Rutherford County district attorney general.
"I was in shock at first of what they were doing to me," Cooper said at that time. "I never would've dreamed that they would've did something like this to me."
Our investigation later uncovered a video where Young and another man had taken Cooper into the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office to complain that he had sold them some counterfeit Justin Bieber tickets.
On the video, Cooper can be seen complaining about having been tortured.
And when we tried to ask the county commissioner what happened, he ran.
Young and two other men were later indicted for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Then, Young was indicted on fraud charges stemming from his business deals with Cooper.
In court, prosecutor Ramsey Groves acknowledged the "new evidence."
Groves told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that, as a result, the government began to have questions about Young's story.
So they offered Cooper a plea to a single charge of wanton endangerment.
"Something could have gone terribly wrong, someone could have been injured. They are in that car in close proximity with a loaded firearm. So that is the basis of the wanton endangerment," she said.
Asked by the judge if he wanted to plead guilty to that charge, Cooper replied: "I think it is in the best interest of me of doing that, yes, sir."
As a result of his guilty plea, Cooper immediately become eligible for probation -- although he knows it still leaves him a convicted felon.
"Well, it was the best that me and my attorney thought that I was going to get," he said later.
Cooper had pleaded guilty to a reduced robbery charge in September after prosecutors offered him an eight-year deal -- which he took to avoid the risk of a 20-year sentence.
But, in a very unusual move, prosecutors today agreed to let him withdraw that guilty plea.
They said that they were just wanting to make sure that justice was done.
Still, that does not mean that Cooper is a free man.
He still faces fraud charges, stemming from his ticket scalping business, in Nashville. So he'll be moved to a Metro jail to begin fighting those charges.