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Richie Farmer sentenced to 27 months in federal prison

by Joe Arnold


Posted on January 14, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 15 at 2:40 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A federal judge has sentenced Richie Farmer to 27 months in prison after the former UK basketball star pleaded guilty to two counts of misappropriating government resources while Commissioner of the Kentucky Agriculture Department.

The sentence was handed down at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon after Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove accepted a plea agreement which limited Farmer's sentence to a maximum of 27 months.

"I do understand I was head of the Department of Agriculture, I made some mistakes.  I made some bad judgments," Farmer addressed the court.  "For that I am truly, truly sorry."

Farmer's attorney, Guthrie True, unsuccessfully argued that a 21 month sentence would sufficiently punish Farmer while sparing "collateral damage" to Farmer's three sons.

"Obviously disappointed," Farmer said to reporters who surrounded him on a sidewalk outside the federal courthouse in Frankfort, "but certainly I want to say to the people of the state how sorry that I am and how much they have meant to me and thank them for all of their understanding."

"You make bad decisions, poor judgments," Farmer continued.  "You own up those mistakes and move on. And that's what I would hope the people of the state will be willing to do."

Without the plea deal, Farmer could have faced up to a decade behind bars on five federal charges, three of which were dropped as part of the agreement.

Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said Farmer's breach of trust was a serious crime.

"I believe you are remorseful," Van Tatenhove said as Farmer stood before him.

"We need the community to know that when mistakes are made we hold those people accountable," Van Tatenhove said. 

Farmer's sentence begins March 18.  The judge agreed to recommend to the Federal Bureau of Prisons that Farmer serve his sentence at the federal prison in Manchester, Kentucky.  The facility is less than two miles from Clay County High School where Farmer earned the "Mr. Basketball title in 1988.

"I made some mistakes and made some bad judgments," Farmer said, addressing the judge.  "For that, I am truly, truly sorry.  I have had to suffer, my family has suffered; most of all what my kids have been through I could never make it up to them.  I want to quickly acknowledge the people of Kentucky who have been there for me.  For this, thank you to them.  I am truly, truly sorry for what I have done."

Farmer admitted to abusing his position as Agriculture Commissioner - putting friends on the state payroll with few responsibilities and using state employees for personal errands.

The abuses came to light when Farmer's successor at the agriculture department, fellow Republican James Comer, requested that Auditor Adam Edelen (D) perform a sweeping review of Farmer's tenure.

Comer called it "a sad day for Kentucky.  Everyone loved Richie Farmer when he was a basketball great at the University of Kentucky and when he was a high school all star at Clay County."

"It's not a happy day," Edelen told WHAS11.  "My fear is that Richie Farmer is certainly going to be the first line of my obituary one day.  But, my faith teaches me about redemption.  I think he has that opportunity at redemption and it starts today."

"There's nothing gleeful about today," Comer said.  "My thoughts and prayers go out to Richie's family, especially his children but at the Department of Agriculture we've moved forward."

Farmer was a University of Kentucky Wildcat 'Unforgettable,' a band of UK seniors who stuck with the basketball program while it was on probation in the early 1990's.

"That's the Richie Farmer that I know," True said, "and that's the Richie Farmer that we all love, and that's the Richie Farmer that will be back."

"The message is, it doesn't matter who you are, what you've done in your sports career or what your celebrity status is or what your position you have in state government," said Kenneth Taylor, Assistant U.S. Attorney.  "If you abuse the public's trust, then we'll follow the evidence and you'll be held accountable."

Judge Van Tatenhove encouraged Farmer to embrace his sentence as a way to pay a debt to society.

"Once you have paid that debt, you are debt free," Judge Van Tatenhove said. 

"Some people are going to hold that over your head the rest of your life,"  Van Tatenhove continued.  "You get to rebuild your life."

The judge said Farmer's number 32 banner should continue to hang from the rafters at Rupp Arena "from now to eternity. You earned it in a way that captured the imagination of this state."