By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — An attorney for former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer wants a federal judge to push back Farmer’s July 2 trial date to February 2014, saying he needs more time to sort through voluminous records.
Farmer was indicted last month for allegedly misusing more than $450,000 in taxpayer funds. He has pleaded not guilty.
Guthrie True, a lawyer for Farmer, said in a motion filed Tuesday that federal prosecutors have given Farmer’s defense team 16 compact discs containing scores of records that could be used against Farmer at trial.
“This discovery includes hours of recorded interviews by the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General and the Kentucky Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts,” the motion says. “It will take considerable time for these interviews to be transcribed, read, and analyzed for information.”
Federal prosecutors have said the trial could last three weeks.
True also noted that he had several cases prior to July 2 that would make preparing for a complex case such as Farmer’s difficult. The motion says defense lawyers would be ready for a trial by February 2014 “at the earliest.”
Federal prosecutors have not yet filed a response to True’s request to delay the trial. U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove has been assigned the case.
A grand jury has charged Farmer with four counts of misappropriating money and property, and one count of soliciting property in exchange for a state grant. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In addition, federal authorities will try to make Farmer repay $450,000, the amount he allegedly took from the agriculture department. The alleged misappropriation of public funds occurred from 2008 to 2011. Farmer led the Kentucky Department of Agriculture from 2004 to 2011.
Prosecutors have accused Farmer of taking home guns and other gifts that were purchased for a 2008 convention, hiring friends for plum gigs featuring high salaries and few responsibilities, and taking home government-owned refrigerators, computers and filing cabinets.
Much of the information in the indictment stemmed from a 2012 audit conducted by State Auditor Adam Edelen, which found a “toxic culture of entitlement” at the department. In addition to the federal charges, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission has charged Farmer with 42 ethics violations — the most ever issued against one person.
Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball player and fan favorite, was a 2011 candidate for lieutenant governor on a slate with Republican David Williams.