Here's Johnny - Thoughts on Sen. Carroll
Except for the two people in the room of a Danville home in 2005, no one knows exactly what happened between state Sen. Julian Carroll and photographer and aspiring art student Jason Geis. (See story on page 6) The audiotape Geis made - at the request of his grandmother, he said, after telling her he was unsure of Carroll's motives - was broadcast on Spectrum's "Pure Politics" show. The next day, Senate Democrats stripped the former governor and House Speaker of his position as minority whip and asked him to resign. As this is written (late Tuesday morning), Carroll has not responded publicly to their request or the issue itself. I watched and listened to the 20-minute piece Monday. The audiotape clearly shows that Carroll propositioned Geis, a 30-year-old who said he thought Carroll would help him get into art school. Readers and viewers will decide for themselves as to whether Carroll's statement to state police that he was merely counseling Geis and trying "to see where Geis was heading" is true. Geis also said that Carroll groped him, which Carroll denied to investigators. Working on the story for The Sun, I spoke to a legal expert about the Lincoln County prosecutor (who may have been appointed as a special prosecutor by his Boyle County colleague) about the case. My source agreed that, however distasteful the allegations, that the case, based primarily on the audiotape, revealed no crime. Another allegation in the case, which Spectrum made after multiple open records requests, is that higher-ups asked that the investigation be put on hold until after the 2005 General Assembly session was over. That bears watching, but it's worth noting that Spectrum reported that investigators, if they received that order or advice, did not heed it. I do not know Sen. Carroll. I've met or interviewed him a half-dozen times or so since he reentered the world of elective office in 2004. I was working for a Lexington television station then, and had been sent to the Capitol Plaza in Frankfort to cover Carroll's victory party. His friends and family were there, and the only 70-something I've met who was happier than Carroll that night was my grandmother Edith when any of her loved ones came to visit. It seemed a remarkable story - and as I later joked to Carroll, I wasn't sure how to address him. Senator? Governor? Former House Speaker? He said "Julian" was just fine. As I continued my career in television and, eventually, with The Sun, I didn't often cover goings-on in our state's capitol, nor did I stay abreast of those matters as I should have. Dear Readers looking for the most insightful look into the life and career of Julian Carroll must look elsewhere. That said, I don't know what else I could have opined upon this week - and believe me, I tried to think of something. The tape does not reveal Carroll offering a quid pro quo to Geis, such as "You do this for me and I'll help you get into an art school." Still, Geis had to be aware that Carroll was a powerful man, and the list of people in power who've traded upon their status is long and distasteful. Perhaps by the time this is published, Carroll will have announced his plans. Maybe he'll do as his colleagues have requested and resign, whether that reason be shame or loyalty to a beleaguered Democratic Party that doesn't need such a scandal come November of next year. Maybe he'll stick around, try to explain himself and fight it out. If this is the final career chapter of someone who spent much of his adult life in and around politics, it's the belief of this reporter and columnist that his career should not be summed up by one distasteful episode. How many of us would wish to be remembered by our worst day? Of course, it's also possible that continued digging will reveal that Carroll's encounter with Geis was not the only such episode. I dunno. At the risk of being thought of as an apologist for Carroll, I'll end this missive with a line from the best-selling book of all time - the one about not judging lest we be judged. That's hard advice to accept sometimes.