(AP) Basketball star Farmer gets 2-plus years in prison
By BRETT BARROUQUERE
Former University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in prison for abusing his power as the state’s agriculture commissioner.
Farmer hired his friends and had them do little to no work, and used state employees to run errands, including having them to build a basketball court at his home, prosecutors said. He was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $120,500 in restitution.
Farmer was a shooting guard for the 1991-1992 team known as “The Unforgettables” for their gutsy play and for turning the Wildcats around after a couple of years on probation. Prosecutors have said Farmer felt a sense of entitlement because of his fame.
Both during the sentencing hearing and outside the courthouse, Farmer apologized but didn’t talk specifically about what he had done.
“If you make bad decisions and poor judgments, you own up to them,” he said.
He will report to prison March 18. U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove recommended that Farmer serve his sentence at the facility in Manchester, near Farmer’s home.
The judge spoke of Farmer’s retired jersey hanging inside Rupp Arena in Lexington, but said his misdeeds ran wide and deep during eight years in office.
“It’s sad to read,” Van Tatenhove said. “There is a sense of entitlement. There’s greed … kind of a culture of entitlement is not really understating it.”
Farmer pleaded guilty in September to two counts of misappropriating government resources. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors and Farmer agreed to a sentencing range of 21 to 27 months. Prosecutors asked for all of that while his attorney argued for less than two years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor said the sentence will ensure the end of Farmer’s political.
“This sentence should speak more to others who might be disposed to do what he’s done,” Taylor said.
After the hearing, Farmer’s attorney, J. Guthrie True, said everyone was glad the legal battle is over.
“He served our state quite well in many respects as Commissioner of Agriculture,” True said. “He’s accomplished a lot in life and he’ll be able to accomplish more.”
Prosecutors have outlined a wide-range of abuses by Farmer during his eight years in office, including using state employees for personal business and keeping some items, such as laptops, small refrigerators and filing cabinets after leaving office in 2012.
As a high school standout, Farmer was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 1988. He played shooting guard for Kentucky from 1988 to 1992, and had career averages of 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game.
The Wildcats’ run in the NCAA Tournament ended in a regional final against Duke, a matchup often cited as the greatest college game ever played. The heavily favored Blue Devils survived an overtime thriller when Duke forward Christian Laettner caught a long pass near the free throw line, took one dribble and hit the jump shot at the buzzer to win the game.
It was Kentucky’s first trip to the postseason after a two-year ban for NCAA infractions. Farmer and teammates Deron Feldhaus, Sean Woods, and John Pelphrey became well-known and their jerseys, including Farmer’s No. 32, were retired.
Farmer had been a rising star within the Kentucky GOP until an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2011 on a ticket with Republican state Senate President David Williams. They lost overwhelmingly to incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, in part because of the brewing scandal.
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