The Richmond Register

State News

September 13, 2013

Farmer enters guilty pleas

FRANKFORT — Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who seemingly once held the affection of the state on a string, entered revised guilty pleas in federal and state courts Friday as part of a deal likely to send him to prison for as long as two years.

Farmer, 44, entered pleas of guilty to two of four federal charges stemming from misappropriation of federal and state funds, including purchasing items for a convention and converting them to personal use and employing friends who did little or no work.

“I understand that I let down the people of Kentucky and my friends and family, and for that I am truly sorry,” Farmer told U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove after entering the plea.

Later Friday afternoon, Farmer entered a guilty plea before Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd to a state charge that he caused campaign funds to be expended for an improper purpose, stemming from allegations he submitted false expense reports to his campaign fund.

Both pleas and the deals worked out with federal and state prosecutors must still be approved by the two judges after they receive pre-sentencing reports from probation and parole officials. Should Van Tatenhove or Shepherd decline to sign off on the deals, Farmer can withdraw his guilty pleas.

Van Tatenhove set sentencing for Farmer for Jan. 14 and allowed the defendant to remain free on bond. Shepherd, who acknowledged that Farmer’s plea in circuit court “somewhat depends on a related case in federal court,” set sentencing on the state charge for Jan. 17.

Under the plea deals negotiated by Farmer’s attorney, Guthrie True, and prosecutors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is recommending a prison sentence of 21 to 27 months, followed by two years of supervised release. Farmer also would be required make restitution of $120,500.

Farmer faced punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the original four counts. State prosecutors are recommending a sentence of one year on the campaign fund charge, to be served concurrently with the federal sentence.

Shortly after Farmer entered his plea before Shepherd, his sister, Rhonda Monroe, who previously worked at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, entered a plea of guilty to a charge she assisted Farmer in causing the improper expenditure of campaign funds.

Under an agreement with the Office of the Attorney General, that agency is recommending a sentence of one year to be probated for a year. Like her brother’s plea deal, Monroe’s must be approved by Shepherd before it’s final and she can withdraw her plea if Shepherd doesn’t approve it.

Shepherd tentatively set sentencing for Monroe for Nov. 1 since it isn’t contingent upon the federal case before Van Tatenhove.

Farmer also faced 42 charges by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, which, on Monday, agreed to a settlement with Farmer, details of which were released after Farmer entered his guilty pleas Friday. Farmer agreed to pay a civil penalty of $63,000 — more than four times the largest fine previously assessed by the commission — and to cooperate fully with any currently open commission investigations.

Farmer was a basketball hero in high school and later at the University of Kentucky, where his jersey hangs from the rafters of Rupp Arena. Farmer led his Clay County high school team to three state championship games, winning one and scoring 51 points in another.

He went on to play at UK on a team Coach Rick Pitino called “The Unforgettables.” It was led by native Kentucky players including Farmer, who chose not to transfer after the university was placed on NCAA probation. They resurrected the program to national prominence.

“The Unforgettables” team became one of the most beloved of all time after losing a heartbreaking overtime game to eventual national champs Duke in the 1992 East Regional final, a game seen by many as one of the greatest college games ever.

That eventually led to a promising political career. Farmer, a Republican, was elected Commissioner of Agriculture in 2003 and re-elected in 2007.

In 2011, Farmer ran as a candidate for lieutenant governor on the Republican gubernatorial ticket of David Williams. They lost to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, and it was during that campaign that things began to unravel for Farmer.

His wife sued for divorce and soon thereafter media stories appeared about Farmer’s conduct as agriculture commissioner. Shortly after his successor, Republican James Comer, took over the Department of Agriculture in January 2012, state Auditor Adam Edelen issued a scathing audit that was turned over to law enforcement authorities.

Following Farmer’s appearance in federal court Friday morning, U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said no one “takes any joy in this,” but the prosecution was necessary.

“Mr. Farmer, as we all know, started his political career really with unlimited promise, and with the best wishes of all Kentuckians,” Harvey said. “It’s unfortunate that we have come to this day, but sadly, the evidence established that, too often, Mr. Farmer looked upon his office and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture more as a personal playhouse than as an opportunity to render public service.”

True, Farmer’s attorney, said he was happy to get the matter settled and behind him to save his family further stress and anxiety.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at

Text Only
State News
  • 7-1 Warren-Grimes 1.jpg Warren blasts McConnell on economic issues

    Elizabeth Warren said here Sunday that Kentucky voters have a simple choice this fall in the nation’s most important election.
    They can re-elect Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who the Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senator said represents the interests of the wealthy and says “no, no, no” to measures to assist the middle class.

    June 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Healthcare signup in state extended

    While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, often was cited as a national model.
    Nevertheless, those in Kentucky who didn’t sign up before the March 31 deadline will have a second chance to enroll.

    April 3, 2014

  • House sends $20.3 million budget to Senate

    It took four hours and it won’t last long in its present form when it reaches the Republican-controlled state Senate, but the House passed a $20.3 billion, two-year budget late Thursday on largely, but not entirely, party lines.

    March 13, 2014

  • Right-to-work bill dies in House panel

    The sponsor of a right-to-work law in Kentucky knew it had no chance of passing a House committee Thursday.

    March 13, 2014

  • Feds deny giving OK to selenium standards

    When lawmakers wrestled last year with new standards for releasing selenium into streams by coal mines and industry, they were assured by state officials the proposals were based on sound science and approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.

    March 7, 2014

  • Senate panel OKs trial use of cannabis oil

    Rita Wooten and her husband Ricky face an excruciating choice: watch their 4-year-old son suffer from repeated seizures — or violate the law in order to help him.

    February 26, 2014

  • Two honored for work with sexually abused

    It’s Erica Brown Myers’ job to help those who have been victimized by sexual abuse. But helping others can take a toll on the helper as well as the victim.

    February 26, 2014

  • Paul asks Senate for help in 2016 quandary

    Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last week asked Republican state senators to try to repeal a Kentucky law that bars anyone from appearing on the same ballot for more than one office.

    February 24, 2014

  • Republican party split on display in Cave City

    Splits in the Kentucky Republican Party were subtly on display here Saturday evening – if you knew what to watch.

    Around 400 gathered at the Cave City Convention Center for the annual Barren County Lincoln Day Dinner but this one was different from past dinners.

    February 24, 2014

  • Comer positioning with gubernatorial politicking

    The roughly 400 Republicans at Saturday night’s Barren County Lincoln Day Dinner here were primarily focused on the U.S. Senate race and Republican hopes to take over the state House of Representatives this fall.

    February 24, 2014

AP Video
Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

What county fair attraction do you like most?

Amusement rides
Beauty pageants
Flora Hall craft exhibits
Horse shows
Livestock, poultry shows
Truck, tractor pulls
Mud, dirt races
Gospel sing
I like them all
     View Results