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Newberry, Harnice given case deadline

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

Judge-Executive Van Newberry and Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice have one month to consider an offer from the commonwealth attorney before the case would proceed to trial.

Newberry and Harnice were in McCracken County Circuit Court for a second pretrial conference Friday morning related to charges they face of tampering with public records. The hearing follows a two-month continuance from a March 22 pretrial conference.

Special Prosecutor G.L. Ovey said his office had ongoing discussions and negotiations with Will Kautz, attorney for Newberry, and David Bundrick, attorney for Doug Harnice, throughout the week and prior to the conference Friday morning. He said the offer was amended Friday but refused to discuss specifics of the deal.

He said the Commonwealth Attorney's Office will now give the defense up to 30 days to consider the offer. Another pretrial conference was set by Special Judge Dennis Foust for 8:30 a.m. on July 2 at the McCracken County Courthouse. Ovey said if the offer is not accepted, it will be revoked on that date and another settlement will not be extended.

"We think it's only fair to give them the opportunity to think over the offer for a reasonable amount of time," Ovey said.

Both parties also discussed possible trial dates during Friday's conference. Ovey asked for a date prior to the end of the current calendar year and stated that the discovery phase has been completed. Kautz and Bundrick requested a date in early 2015, citing the large number of witnesses who would be subpoenaed to testify in the case.

Foust said he has a busy trial docket in November and December. A tentative trial date of Jan. 6 was agreed on by all parties. The judge said he expects a five-day trial. 

Ovey said although his office is interested in the quickest date possible, trials with special judges and special prosecutors are often extended longer than normal due to scheduling conflicts.

He said a change of venue for the case outside McCracken County hasn't been considered.

Newberry and Harnice are accused of altering the county's zoning maps without using the proper protocol. An investigation allegedly found hundreds of property lines that were changed between 2007 and 2008 without approval from the McCracken County Fiscal Court.

The pair have denied the charges, saying that they suggested changes to fix an improper map drawn by the city but did nothing illegal. They were arraigned in January and pleaded not guilty to the Class D felony, which upon conviction is punishable by one to five years in prison.

Newberry, who changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Independent over the winter, filed his intention to run in November's judge-executive election on April 1. Formal filings for Kentucky's Independent candidates are due by Aug. 12, accompanied by a petition of nomination with 100 verified signatures. Newberry has stated that he intends to seek re-election.

Current state Sen. Bob Leeper also filed candidacy papers to run as an Independent. Both Newberry and Leeper would face retired Circuit Judge Jeff Hines, who filed in January on the Democratic ticket in the general election.

Newberry and Harnice are due back in court for the next pretrial conference on July 2.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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