NKY prosecutor Linda Tally Smith loses election in wake of David Dooley murder trial scandal

NKY prosecutor Linda Tally Smith loses election in wake of David Dooley murder trial scandal
Linda Tally Smith is the Commonwealth's Attorney - 54th Judicial Circuit for Boone and Gallatin counties. (Photo: The Enquirer/Liz Dufour)

CINCINNATI - Voters ousted the prosecutor involved in the scandal that helped overturn a conviction in one of Northern Kentucky's highest-profile murders.

Louis Kelly beat incumbent Linda Tally Smith in a landslide in Tuesday's Republican Primary after one of the more contentious races, our partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer report. Kelly received 68 percent of the vote and won by 36 percentage points, according to the unofficial election results reported by the Boone County Clerk.

For Tally Smith, Tuesday's defeat brings an ignominious end to her 18-year career as Commonwealth's attorney for Boone and Gallatin counties. When she was elected in 2000 at the age of 31, she was the youngest Commonwealth's Attorney in the state.

Tally Smith for the past year fought of calls from her own party to resign.

She came under fire in the David Dooley case.

In September, Dooley will be re-tried for the murder of Michelle Mockbee. The murder case received national attention, including two episodes of Dateline.

The battered body of Mockbee, 42, a mother of two, was found outside her office in 2012 at Thermo Fisher Scientific in a Boone County industrial park. A jury in 2014 convicted Dooley, Thermo Fisher's janitor.

Then, two years later, the questions started coming.

A clerk fired by Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith handed over a thumb drive to the attorney general in 2016. It contained texts that revealed an affair developed between Tally Smith and lead detective Bruce McVay after Dooley's 2014 trial. In a March 2017 court hearing, Tally Smith and McVay admitted the affair.

The thumb drive also contained messages between McVay and Tally Smith that raised more questions about whether the defense had access to all the evidence.

Circuit Court Judge J.R. Schrand agreed the evidence was withheld and granted Dooley a new trial. He wrote in his order that there was no evidence the prosecution intentionally withheld the video prior to trial. But whether it was intentional or not, the judge felt the defense should have known about it.

That's when 40-year-old attorney Louis Kelly decided to run against Tally Smith.

"People are upset," Kelly said. "In September, taxpayers will have to pay for a new trial. We're footing the bill."

For Kelly, it's a return to the government.

Kelly worked from 2007-2010 as an assistant county attorney in Boone County under County Attorney Bob Neace, one of the Republicans calling for Tally Smith's resignation.

He grew up in Springfield, Ky., outside Louisville and graduated from  Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University.

He left that office in 2010 and has worked in private practice since then. In private practice, he's prosecuted judges for ethical violations as part of contracted work with the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission, he said.

"I think we're ready to hold elected officials to a higher standard, and that's why I'm doing this," Kelly said.