Letters urge for mercy for former ag secretary Richie Farmer

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino asked a federal judge to show mercy when sentencing ex-Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer and allow him to "become a productive citizen again" after the basketball star's fall from grace.

Pitino's letter is among 29 dispatches sent to U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove before Farmer's sentencing in January for abusing public office. Farmer is serving a 27 month sentence.

Farmer pleaded guilty in September to using state resources for his personal benefit.

Van Tatenhove unsealed the letters Thursday evening.

Among the family and friends writing letters was former Kentucky basketball star and current University of Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey. Pitino coached both men at Kentucky from 1989 through 1992.

Farmer and Pelphrey were part of a Wildcats team that earned the school its first postseason trip after a two-year ban for NCAA infractions.

In addition to claiming what wonderful character Farmer has, Pelphrey talked in his letter of Farmer's "huge smile, great teeth and a mustache so impressive it would make Tom Selleck green with envy!"

Pitino asked the judge to show mercy to allow him to "become a productive citizen again."

Even Farmer's high school coach from Clay County had something to say.

Bob Keith said in his letter to the judge write, "Yes, he made some mistakes. He hired a few friends, but everyone remembers their friends."

Keith even offered up suggestions for Farmer's punishment, including community service with Eastern Kentucky drug-fighting agency Unite.

Additional excerpts:
“I have seen Richie go from a proud, young happy man to a broken shell of the great man he once was. Richie has paid with his job, finances, and more importantly his honor,” said Bob Keith, coach at Clay County High School (1963-1999)

“These past two years have been punishment enough. And for Richie, a public figure, a folk hero, a Kentuckian… the past two years have been more like ten,” said John Pelphrey, former teammate of Farmer’s.

“I can truthfully say Richie never once caused this retired teacher a moment of trouble in all the four years I had him in class,” said Betty Hampton, teacher.

“I’ve known Richie for approximately 2 ½ years, he dates my daughter, Stephanie Hiser. The Richie Farmer that I know is a very kind and gentle person,” said Jerry Hiser.

Farmer pleaded guilty to misusing state money during his time leading the Ag Department.

Farmer reported to federal prison in West Virginia last month.

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