Skip to comments.Ky. gov. spared trial while in office
Posted on 08/12/2006 8:53:26 PM PDT by DaveLoneRanger
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Gov. Ernie Fletcher, criminally charged with rewarding political supporters with protected state jobs, cannot be tried while in office, a judge said Friday as he rejected the governor's motion to throw out the charges.
Special Judge David E. Melcher's ruling creates a legal limbo for Kentucky's first Republican governor in three decades as he seeks a second term next year. Fletcher can't be convicted, but he can't clear his name, either.
"It just creates a continuing cloud," said Jack Richardson, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. "You're running for re-election as an indicted governor, and the charges are still there."
Melcher ruled that Fletcher is protected by executive immunity and cannot be prosecuted while in office. Scott Crawford-Sutherland, the attorney general's top prosecutor, declined to say whether he will appeal.
Barring a successful appeal, the decision essentially stays the case until Fletcher's term expires, unless the Legislature removes him through impeachment.
Fletcher said in a written statement he was pleased with the ruling "because Kentuckians are weary of this sad ordeal. Now, we can all turn our full attention to the children, families and communities of this great commonwealth."
Fletcher was indicted in May on charges of criminal conspiracy, official misconduct and violating a prohibition against political discrimination. His lawyers have entered a not guilty plea, and he had been scheduled to go on trial Nov. 8.
The indictment alleges that some state workers were illegally hired and others illegally fired because of their political leanings since Fletcher took office in 2003, but he has accused Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, of conducting a politically motivated investigation.
Defense attorney Steve Pitt said he was pleased with the ruling.
"We would certainly hope that at this point in time that the prosecutors would go back, look inward and determine what's best for the commonwealth of Kentucky," Pitt said. "That is that this should come to a halt."
Vicki Glass, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said prosecutors were pleased the charges were not dismissed.
"The court's ruling affirms the principle that no person is above the law," she said.
During a hearing Friday, Pitt said the governor was willing to face a jury, but added that "other considerations" led him to seek a dismissal.
"That is the important need of this state to return to normalcy, and get back to the operation of government as it should be without the cloud hanging over it of this unprecedented criminal case," Pitt said.
Charles Wells, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said his organization will press the Legislature to impeach Fletcher.
House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, had not considered impeachment proceedings, spokesman John McGary said.
"Not at this point," he said. "All along, we've said, 'Let's let the judicial process carry out.' And we've tried to temper our remarks and not be partisan on this. It could be that the judicial system is not done with this case."
The special grand jury that indicted Fletcher returned 28 other indictments in the hiring probe, but the governor issued a blanket pardon exonerating everyone from his administration charged in the probe except himself.
Governors in other states have been tried and convicted while in office: In the last 20 years it's happened in Alabama and Arkansas and twice in Arizona. Last year Ohio Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest to misdemeanor ethics violations.
KY ping. (Lance, did you move?)
Hiring state employees as a political thing? I am shock, I tell you, shocked. Next thing someone will start saying that money plays a part of politics.
I live about 500 yards from Kentucky and would like to see A Republican Governor over there, but this is just wrong.
Do you live in Illinois? This is the same type of charges former RINO Governor George Ryan was convicted in April on 22 counts for hiring practices and political patronage while he was Secretary of State.
Current RAt Governor Rod Blagojevich is currently being investigated on hiring practices by the feds. The judge in Kentucky case is wrong and this ruling should be appealed, the voters should know the outcome before election day next year.
I live in Cincinnati. Ernie may be innocent(for doing what Democrats consider business as usual), but he should not be above the law just because he is the Governor.
So, in your opinion is this closer to a Tom Delay political prosecution or George Ryan who has been found guilty.
I'm a Cincinnati Reds fan so we agree in the summer, but I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the winter.
I have no idea... but the Steelers took out Carson Palmer, those bastards!
I moved to North Carolina just three days ago.
Well, well! Why the move? Whatcha up to now? (Or if you'd like to private reply...)
I'll have to say hi next time I'm in your area.
And trust me. Ernie isn't innocent.
This AG should be brought up on charges for wasting tax payer money.
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