Henry accepts plea deal, admits no guilt to alleged campaign violations

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by Melanie Kahn

WHAS11.com

Posted on December 22, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 23 at 12:44 AM

After nearly 2.5 years of scrutiny and investigation, former Lieutenant Governor Steve Henry takes a plea deal for violating campaign laws.

Henry didn't admit his guilt but he did admit there's enough evidence to possibly convict him.

By entering this plea deal, Henry avoided the possibility of jail time. 

Some say, it's an agreement the special prosecutor should never have made.

In 2007, Former Lt. Governor Steve Henry told WHAS11 that allegations that he was illegally collecting money for his campaign for Governor were not true saying, "absolutely not.  That would be against the law."

And Tuesday, even while entering a plea, he maintained his innocence called an Alford Plea.

"You do not admit guilt but you believe the evidence against you could possibly prove your guilt and believe your interests are best served by entering this guilty plea," the judge asked.

Henry responded, "Yes sir," in court Tuesday.

The plea reduced the felony charges to misdemeanors.

His sentence, a $5000 fine and $156 in court costs.

Henry says he did it for his family.

"My family comes first and I've gotta be honest with you.  I've had this case for two and half years,” he said.

Henry's attorney told him not to take the plea deal.

"It was our advice to Dr. Henry to reject this plea offer and to try this case.  Simply put, I don't believe there are any 12 people in the Commonwealth who would ever convict Dr. Henry on this,” said Brian Butler.

Special Prosecutor James Crawford said, “his client stood up there and plead guilty so obviously somebody is concerned about the facts behind the case."

Crawford says the evidence against Henry is overwhelming, starting with testimony from Henry's former aid, Leslie Holland, the woman who brought the allegations of campaign finance fraud to the Attorney General.

"The taxpayers of Kentucky deserve this.  We are entitled to have public officials who don't mess around with the finance laws." Holland said, "It's just about doing what's right and he wouldn't know the truth from the broad side of a barn."

Henry says the truth is he did nothing wrong and says Attorney Generalinvestigations shouldn't ruin active campaigns.

"At the time we were the frontrunner in the Governor's race and he effectively took us off the rails.  That is very dangerous in Kentucky for politicians to be able to do that," said Henry.

But Crawford says, "That's a ridiculous statement.  The precedent we're trying to set here is that people who run for public office should follow the laws and the first laws they should follow are the campaign laws and if they can't do that then they've got no business handling public funds and being in public office.  It's that simple."

When asked if he will pursue any political office in the future, Henry said, he's, quote, "not available for politics."

But he made it clear that public service is still an option.

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