New bid-rigging judge is related to lobbyist

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The fourth judge to be assigned to a highway bid-rigging case says he is the father-in-law of a highway industry lobbyist.

U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester has confirmed to The Courier-Journal of Louisville that he is the father-in-law of Sean Cutter, a Frankfort lobbyist whose clients include the Kentucky Association of Highway Contractors.

One of the defendants, road contractor Leonard Lawson, owns companies that are members of the association. His son, Steve Lawson, is a former president of the association.

Leonard Lawson, former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert and Lawson employee Brian Billings have pleaded not guilty to charges that they conspired to steer about $130 million worth of highway construction contracts.

Already, three judges have disqualified themselves from the case, two for potential conflicts and one without explanation.

Forester said Friday before he took the case that he asked Cutter if he represented Lawson and was told no. But he said he learned Friday from a Lexington Herald-Leader reporter that Cutter was a registered lobbyist for the contractors association.

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