LEXINGTON — Richie Farmer, the basketball star turned Kentucky politician, was indicted last week on charges stemming from his tenure as state agriculture commissioner.
The charges included four counts of misappropriating state funds and one count of soliciting property.
Kerry Harvey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said the former agriculture commissioner allegedly created several “special assistant’ positions for his friends.
Federal prosecutors also allege that Farmer used state employees to run errands for him and work on his house during official business hours. And Farmer is accused of buying a surplus of gifts—including Remington rifles, customized watches, and knives—for participants at an agriculture conference in 2008 that he later kept for personal use.
Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of $450,000 from Farmer and he faces possible jail time. Arraignment is scheduled for April 30 in Lexington.
Guthrie True, Farmer’s attorney, said he and Farmer were expecting the federal indictment, which follows several months of investigation from the state Attorney General and the FBI. True said Farmer is not guilty of the charges.
True said the U.S. Department of Justice is setting a “dangerous precedent” by getting 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,” True said. “We think these are matters that should have been decided at the polls by Kentucky voters.”
State Auditor Adam Edelen said 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,” Edelen said. “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. His attorney 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.