LOUISVILLE - Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer abused the trust and goodwill he earned as a basketball star at the University of Kentucky and should spend 27 months in federal prison along with having to pay $120,500 in restitution to the state and the agency he led for eight years, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Farmer's star treatment and public adoration of him engendered "what appears to have been a profound sense of entitlement."
"The defendant's athletic success provided the platform from which he could obtain the very office he abused," Taylor wrote. "Seen from that perspective, the goodwill was squandered and the public betrayed."
Farmer pleaded guilty in September to two counts of misappropriating government resources while overseeing the Agriculture Department. Before becoming the two-term commissioner, Farmer was a sweet-shooting guard for the 1991-92 University of Kentucky basketball team dubbed "The Unforgettables" for their gutsy play.
Prosecutors moved to dismiss two charges against Farmer in exchange for his guilty plea. U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove is scheduled to sentence Farmer on Jan. 14 in federal court in Frankfort.
The restitution would be split, with $105,500 going to the state and $15,000 going to the Agriculture Department.
Farmer's attorney, J. Guthrie True, had not filed a sentencing memorandum as of Friday afternoon. True said a memorandum will be filed in the coming week and declined to comment on Taylor's memo.
Taylor outlined a wide-ranging series of alleged abuses by Farmer during his eight years in office, including hiring friends and expecting little or no work from them; using state employees for personal business, including to build a basketball court at his home in Manchester; and taking items such as laptops, personal refrigerators and filing cabinets home with him, as well as keeping some of them after leaving office in 2012.
"This course of conduct permeated Farmer's entire administration," Taylor wrote.
"Unfortunately, those around him were too fearful of losing their jobs, income or position to report the abuses until he left office."
Failure to punish Farmer would allow his conduct to become "part of the culture of government," Taylor said.
Farmer, 44, ran for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket with then-state Sen. President David Williams in the 2011 gubernatorial election.
The pair lost to incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.
Farmer was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky in 1988. He played shooting guard for the University of Kentucky from 1988 to 1992, where he posted career averages of 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. Farmer and fellow classmen Deron Feldhaus, Sean Woods, and John Pelphrey, became known as "The Unforgettables." Farmer's No. 32 and the jerseys of the other three players were retired.
The Wildcats' run in the NCAA Tournament would end in a regional final against Duke that is often cited as the greatest college game ever played. The heavily favored Blue Devils survived an overtime thriller on Duke forward Christian Laettner's last-second shot at the buzzer.
The team was Kentucky's first to play in the post-season after a two-year ban for NCAA infractions.