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Federal grand jury convenes to probe Richie Farmer%)

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 08:18 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Prosecutors released no information Friday about the findings of a federal grand jury looking into whether Richie Farmer, a Kentucky basketball icon turned politician, violated criminal laws during eight years as state agriculture commissioner.

“Per Department of Justice policy, we cannot confirm or deny matters that aren’t part of the federal court’s public record,” said Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, in a statement Friday evening.

Farmer wasn’t at the federal courthouse, but a handful of former Kentucky Department of Agriculture employees were seen going in and out. Farmer’s attorney, Guthrie True, said earlier in the week that they had been subpoenaed to testify.

It’s not clear what the grand jury is investigating, but Farmer was accused last month of 42 ethics violations. They included accusations that Farmer gave jobs to friends, had state employees build a basketball court on his property and gave state-purchased laptops to his family members.

One charge alleged he spent more than $30,000 to take visiting agriculture commissioners to Churchill Downs to watch horse races. Another accused Farmer of directing government employees “to chauffeur the family dog” from Louisville to his home in Frankfort.

Farmer’s popularity as the shooting guard for a University of Kentucky team dubbed “The Unforgettables” catapulted him into elected office a decade ago.

The homegrown athlete from impoverished Clay County remains one of the biggest names in one of the country’s most successful college basketball programs. His jersey hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena alongside those of some of the biggest names in basketball, including Dan Issel, Pat Riley, Kenny Walker and Sam Bowie.