LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer pleaded not guilty to federal charges he misused $450,000 in taxpayer money while he was a state official.
Farmer appeared for arraignment Thursday in U.S. District Court. A judge set a tentative trial date for July 2, but Farmer's defense attorney indicated he'll file a motion to reschedule a later date.
"That's just not enough time to prepare," J. Guthrie True said, who represents Farmer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor said the jury trial is expected to last three weeks.
During the initial court appearance, True made a motion to waive a condition of Farmer's bond so he could go on vacation to Cancun, Mexico. The federal judge denied the request. Farmer will also be required to seek employment while out on bond.
A federal grand jury indicted Farmer on four counts of misappropriating funds from the Department of Agriculture and one count of soliciting property in exchange for influencing department actions. Each count carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The federal government also is seeking to recover $450,000 from Farmer - an amount that may be ordered as restitution.
The indictment echoes many of the major findings of a state audit last year - that Farmer illegally took home a trove of guns and other items bought as gifts for a 2008 convention; that he also took home computer and other state equipment, and he hired friends as ghost employees at the department.
Farmer will be required to regularly check in and communicate with a probation officer.
The federal charges mirror a state audit and 42 ethics violations against Farmer - each punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.
Some of the charges allege Farmer used public money to purchase rifles, build a basketball court in his backyard and used state workers to mow his lawn.
Farmer did not provide any comments to reporters.
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