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Richie Farmer pleads not guilty to federal charges; attorney promises "rest of this story" will surface

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Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and basketball icon Richie Farmer pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that he misused $450,000 in state money.

Richie Farmer leaves the federal courthouse in Lexington Thursday after pleading not guilty.

Update, 4/25/13, 11 p.m.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that he misused $450,000 in state money.

A federal grand jury Monday indicted Farmer on four counts of misappropriating property and funds of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and one count of soliciting property to influence KDA business.

Farmer pleaded not guilty to all five charges at his arraignment Thursday.

Farmer, 43, served as Kentucky's commissioner of agriculture from 2004 to 2011.

He is a state basketball icon who starred at Clay County High School and went on to play at the University of Kentucky.

"We're glad to finally get the initial appearance out of the way," said Farmer's attorney, Guthrie True. "We're going to be ready when trial time comes and the rest of this story will come out then."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier ordered Farmer Thursday not to leave the state while the trial proceeds.

The judge also denied a request by Farmer's attorney to allow Farmer to go on a previously-scheduled vacation to Cancun the week of May 13-18.

"We knew it was pretty unlikely that he would be allowed to travel outside the country," true said. "That would be fairly unusual."

Farmer's ex-wife, Becky, may be called as a witness by the prosecution during the trial. But Farmer is still allowed to communicate with her for custody exchanges.

Farmer, who does not have a job, is also required to seek employment as a condition of his probation. True said Farmer's job search is difficult because of high public interest in the trial.

"It's impossible right now," True said. "But he'll do as the judge directs him to do, which is make a good faith effort and keep the probation office advised of his efforts."

Farmer recently worked a stint as a car salesman in his hometown of Manchester.

When asked why that job ended, True said, "Because of this," gesturing to the large throng of media gathered on the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Lexington.

Farmer was also ordered to surrender his passport by Friday.

His parents were in court but did not talk to the media afterward.

Farmer did not speak much in open court, mainly saying "Yes, sir" when responding to standard questions from the judge.

Farmer, whose jersey hangs from the Rupp Arena rafters, is free without bond.

His trial is scheduled to begin July 2 in Frankfort. But True said he will ask for a delay because of scheduling conflicts and the need for more time to build his defense case.

"There's no way we can be ready for trial (by) July 2," he said. "We've got other cases to try between now and then and just need considerable time to prepare for this trial."

If convicted, Farmer faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 dollar fine for each charge.

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UPDATED: April 25th, 2013 at 4:34pm

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky sports hero turned politician Richie Farmer has pleaded not guilty to charges related to his management of the Department of Agriculture.

The 43-year-old Farmer appeared Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier in Lexington for a brief arraignment hearing.

His attorney, Guthrie True, entered the plea for him.

Farmer will be free until his trial, set for July 2.

Farmer is a state basketball icon whose jersey hangs from the rafters of Rupp Arena. He was charged in an indictment earlier this week with four counts of misappropriating government property and money and one count of soliciting property in exchange for a government grant.

Farmer served as agriculture commissioner from 2004 through 2011. He could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the five counts.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - A federal judge granted a request from Richie Farmer's attorney to change his arraignment date.

Farmer was originally scheduled to make his first court appearance on April 30th. That hearing will now take place on Thursday, a week earlier.

A federal grand jury indicted Farmer with four counts of misappropriating property and funds of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Farmer is also charged with one county of soliciting property of value in exchange for intending to be influenced in KDA matters. Each count carries a maximum 10 year sentence.

Farmer's attorney made a motion to move the date because he is scheduled to be in trial in the Western District for the next two weeks.

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MANCHESTER, Ky. (WYMT) - People in Richie Farmer's hometown have mixed reactions to him being indicted in connection to alleged misuse of property and funds while he was Kentucky's commissioner of agriculture.

"I was pretty shocked about it," Lawrence Smith said. "I love Richie and have known him all my life and he seems like a pretty good guy. I hate to hear what went on but the guy is innocent until proven guilty."

Another Clay County resident, Dezerae Alexander, said, "It doesn't necessarily mean he did it. But I'm sure if he did it they need to start looking at everybody else in office to make sure they haven't done it. No use in blaming it on one person."

Farmer is a former basketball star at Clay County High School and also played at the University of Kentucky, where he was a member of "The Unforgettables."
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LEXINGTON, Ky (WYMT) - An investigation by the FBI and Kentucky's Attorney General found several problems with the way former Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer used public funds during his tenure in Frankfort.

"Mr. Farmer allegedly purchased gifts with co-mingled private and public funds that were under the care custody and control of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture," said U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey.

Those gifts included customized remington rifles along with embossed case knives, which U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey says exceeded the need.

Harvey also says he misappropriated the excess for his personal use.

The indictment also accuses Farmer of using state money to buy hotel rooms for family members during the Kentucky State Fair.

Farmer is also accused of directing the creation of several paid "special assistant" positions for close friends and associates.

"The indictment alleges that there was an ongoing breach of the public trust. So I think it goes without saying that it's a serious matter," said Harvey.

But Farmer's attorney claims he did nothing wrong, and that these are not issues for the courtroom.

"Historically disagreements on such issues have been decided at the polling place and not in the courtroom. This shift in venue, we believe, only serves to deprive all of us as our rights as citizens," said Farmer's attorney Guthrie True.

True says Farmer will plead not guilty to the charges, and he expects a trial in the matter.

"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 say those are outright incorrect," said True.

Each count carries a maximum 10 year sentence.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Former Kentucky agriculture commissioner and University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer has been indicted on felony charges of misappropriating state funds.

The 43-year-old was named in a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

He was the state's agriculture commissioner from 2004 to the end of 2011. The indictment charges him with using his state position to obtain thousands of dollars' worth of gifts, hotel rooms, clothing and computers. It also alleges he hired friends at the agency who did little or no work.

Attorney J. Guthrie True says Farmer plans to plead not guilty and he will appear in court for his arraignment April 30.

Farmer was a shooting guard for the University of Kentucky's Wildcats basketball team from 1988 to 1992, a team known as "The Unforgettables."

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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LEXINGTON, Ky (WYMT) - WYMT has learned that former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The details are still being released by the U.S. Attorney.

The indictment was filed Friday, April 19, it was unsealed Monday morning. The federal grand jury indicted Farmer with four counts of misappropriating property and funds of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Farmer is also charged with one county of soliciting property of value in exchange for intending to be influenced in KDA matters.

The indictment states Farmer abused his authority throughout his tenure, using KDA funds to obtain rifles, clothes, hotel rooms, computer equipment and home appliances, all for himself, friends and family.

We learned just a month ago that Kentucky's former agriculture commissioner, Richie Farmer, had been charged with 42 violations of the state's ethics laws during his time in Frankfort.

The commission had never charged one person with this many violations before.

Seven pages of the 14-page summary were solely counts against Farmer.

Farmer's sister, Rhonda Monroe, and Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Bruce Harper were among six others charged along with Farmer last month on ethics violations. They each face three counts. Monroe holds the position of assistant executive director in the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. The others charged with ethics violations no longer work for the state.

The state's Executive Branch Ethics Commission accused Farmer of misusing state funds and state employees during his time in office and placing his friends in jobs that had no specified duties, asking them to carry out his personal errands.

The charges against Farmer date back to 2008. He is accused of several violations surrounding a conference with the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture. During that conference in particular, Farmer was accused of having employees misuse state funds to take visiting Agriculture Commissioners' wives on shopping trips to Fayette Mall. While buying gifts for the visiting commissioners, he allegedly kept the extras for his own personal benefit, including firearms, alcohol, candy and shirts.

Farmer is also accused of using state employees to chauffeur him, his family and even his dog to doctors' appointments and on personal shopping trips, to landscape his back yard, clean his garage and even build a basketball court at his home in Frankfort.

He also faces allegations of using state funds to purchase items for his personal benefit, including laptops for his family and cabinets for his personal home office. And he is accused of using his influence and the promise of grant money to a private business in exchange for three vehicles, two for himself and one for his father.

Another allegation against Farmer is that he influenced the Department to hire a woman he had an ongoing intimate relationship with, placing her under his direct supervision and allowing her to falsely claim work time over a six-week period.

Farmer was a shooting guard for the University of Kentucky's Wildcats basketball team from 1988 to 1992.

WYMT is monitoring this developing story and will provide more information as it becomes available.


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