Former UK basketball legend and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer will go for sentencing Tuesday in federal court in Lexington. Farmer was charged with abusing his office to enrich himself by taking things paid for by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and hiring friends into do-nothing jobs.
Farmer pleaded guilty to two charges in September and admitted to the following:
- taking personal possession of $19,500 wourth of rifles, knives, rifle cases and other items that were purchased by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as gifts for attendees at a conference it sponsored in 2008
- hiring in 2008 two friends knowing "they would not fully earn their salaries from KDA" which caused them to be paid $45,500 more than they actually worked to earn
- allowing the same two friends to be paid in 2011 another $45,500 more than they earned by working for the agriculture department
- also in 2011 hiring and causing to be paid "a close personal friend whom he knew would nto be performing substantial work to benefit KDA" resulting in another $10,000 wrongfully paid out
You can read Farmer's plea agreement here.
It is unclear from the plea agreement whether the two friends did any work at all for the agriculture department. The plea agreement language that they did not "fully earn their salaries from KDA" indicates that they did some work to at least partially but not fully earn their salaries.
Although Farmer has pleaded guilty, his plea agreement has not been accepted by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove. The plea agreement is what is known as a "binding plea agreement" and Farmer could withdraw his plea and go to trial if not accepted by the judge. However, the judge is likely to accept the plea agreement since Farmer's plea is part of a global settlement of matters also before the Kentucky Attorney General and the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
I raised concerns about the charges founded upon some employees who allegedly did not "fully earn their salaries from KDA" in an essay published earlier this year in the Lexington Herald-Leader: In Farmer Case, We Could Push Law So Far As To Criminalize Politics. These potential problems were referenced in the sentencing memoranda filed by the United States and Farmer that will be discussed in a subsequent post.
Lexington criminal defense lawyer Robert Abell represents clients in federal and state courts throughout Kentucky; contact him at 859-254-7076.