Former Ag Commissioner Richie Farmer Facing Federal Indictment
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The investigation into Richie Farmer’s tenure as Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner has resulted in a five-count federal indictment.
A federal grand jury in Lexington returned the indictment against Richie Farmer late last week and it was unsealed Monday morning. The charges included four counts of misappropriating state funds and one count of soliciting property.
Farmer is accused of buying a surplus of gifts for participants at a 2008 agriculture conference -- including rifles, watches, and knives – that he later kept for personal use.
Kerry Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the eastern District of Kentucky, says the former agriculture commissioner allegedly created several “Special Assistant” positions for his friends.
“He also allegedly directed Department of Agriculture employees to drive him on personal errands, babysit his children, mow his lawn, and transport his dog, among other things.”
Farmer’s defense attorney Guthrie True maintains that his client is innocent.
“Factually, we don’t take issue with what may have occurred, but the context is going to be critical. I think there are going to be other facts in the indictment that we’re going to say that probably those are just outright incorrect, that the government’s misinformed.”
True says the U.S. Department of Justice is setting a “dangerous precedent” by turning a political matter of managing a government agency into a legal one.
“We don’t believe this is a matter that’s appropriate for a criminal courtroom. We think these are matters that should have been decided at the polls by Kentucky voters.”
State Auditor Adam Edelen says he’s pleased the U.S. Attorney is moving forward with an investigation that his office initiated last year.
“No one’s above the law. And I think that’s one thing that, whether it be from the Kentucky Auditor’s office or it be from the Department of Justice, we clearly communicated that there are no special people in Kentucky.”
Farmer was a star basketball player in college at the University of Kentucky but is now out of public office and unemployed.
True says the criminal investigation has made it difficult for him to find work and has overshadowed the accomplishments of the Department of Agriculture while Farmer was in office.
Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of $450,000 from Farmer and he faces possible jail time. Arraignment is scheduled for April 30 in Lexington.
UPDATE April 24, 2013 9:40 a.m. : Due to a scheduling conflict for Farmer's attorney, arraignment has been moved up to Thursday, April 25 at 4:00 at the U.S. Courthouse in Lexington.