Harlan Co. Judge-Executive pleaded not guilty to charges

By: Angela Sparkman, Rebekah Pewitt Email
By: Angela Sparkman, Rebekah Pewitt Email
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UPDATE 7/15/13

HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop answered to numerous charges on Monday.

His defense attorney claims Sheriff Marvin J. Lipfird filed the charges because of a political feud.

Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop appeared in Harlan County District Court for his arraignment. He pleaded not guilty to charges of theft, burglary, official misconduct, and retaliating against a witness in the legal process.

"He didn't do anything. It's a political feud in which he's clearly using his authority to try to pursue a political feud," said Steve Romines, Grieshop's defense attorney.

Harlan County Sheriff Marvin J. Lipfird filed the charges after what he calls a two year investigation regarding property the Sheriff's Chaplain Corps rented from the County. The Sheriff claims Grieshop wanted the building for an industry, so he cut the locks and seized the items inside.

"He got charged with a crime over the exercise with his official duties, but it's fine, we'll deal with it," said Romines.

After court, Sheriff Lipfird did not comment.

Jesse Stockton, Commonwealth's Attorney for the 40th Judicial Circuit, is the special prosecutor assigned the case. He also did not discuss the case after court.

"There's ethical rules, prosecutors are very limited in what they can discuss, so I usually never have any comment on a pending case," Stockton said.

Romines filed a motion asking the Harlan County Sheriff's Department for all the evidence used in the investigation that led to the charges. The motion accused Sheriff Lipfird of "seeking revenge" and questions why he had a trial commissioner sign the complaint two years after the incident happened.

"We look forward to our day in court," said Romines.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for September.


UPDATE 6/5/13

We could not find the Harlan County Judge Executive Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he was arrested at his office.

Harlan County Judge Executive, Joe Grieshop faces theft charges; however, county magistrates say those charges just won't stick.

“I have talked to the judge earlier tonight, and he feels confident that he will be exonerated, and he feels confident that there's nothing to the charges,” said District 3 County Magistrate, David Kennedy

And District 1 County Magistrate, Jonathan Pope, says the same, “I feel like once everything comes out, that the judge will be exonerated and we can move forward.”

The Harlan County Sheriff, Marvin Lipfird, says the alleged crime happened while Grieshop was trying to move a new business into the county’s Chaplain's Corps building, but says goods from the building were used for Grieshop's personal use.

He faces charges of 3rd degree burglary, theft by unlawful taking and several others.

Magistrate Jonathan Pope says the county has bigger problems.

“We've got people with real problems. We've got a lot of unemployed coal miners. We've got a lot of problems, but I think this is one of the smaller ones,” said Pope.

The Sheriff says Grieshop refused to let him in his office to serve the warrant yesterday, and he was forced to pick the lock.

He says that even though the two of them have been at political odds in the past, the charges have nothing to do with Grieshop's position.

Grieshop is expected to be in court later this month, and was not available for comment.
UPDATED 6/4/13

HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - A local judge executive ended up on the other side of the law Tuesday in Harlan County.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop faces criminal charges for what the sheriff calls retaliation against the Harlan County Sheriff's Chaplain Corps.

Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird charged Grieshop with 3rd degree burglary, theft by unlawful taking, first degree official misconduct, and 10 counts of retaliating against a participant in legal process.

The arrest is the culmination of what the sheriff calls a two year investigation following an incident at a property rented by the Harlan Sheriff's Chaplain Corps, a 501c3 organization.

"On July 25th, 2011, the judge-executive went with county workers cut the locks off with torches, went into the building and seized the items," Lipford said.

The sheriff says the items included a freezer compressor unit, school supplies, clothing and food. The sheriff says he believes Grieshop acted in retribution against the chaplain corps.

"On July the 2nd, 2011, there was a civil suit filed by the chaplain corps against the judge executive, and on the 25th he retaliated against them," Lipford said. "It is our contention that he retaliated against them and seized the items and cut into the buildings."

County magistrates we talked to were surprised at the news, but are taking a "wait and see" approach.

"We don't know the exact details of what's going on, but we feel we've got a good and honest judge and we're all looking forward to all that's coming out and let's see what happened," said 3rd district magistrate David Kennedy.

Following his arrest, deputies did not take Grieshop to jail. Instead, the judge walked himself to the Harlan County Justice Center and posted bond, which was set at $10,000.

We approached Judge Grieshop for an interview, but he said he did not want to appear on camera until he had had a chance to speak with his lawyer.

Dates for an arraignment and preliminary hearing have not been set.

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