Former Blue Grass Airport official 'shocked' to get jail time

Slone violated probation terms with DUI arrest

jhewlett@herald-leader.comJune 25, 2011 

A former Blue Grass Airport official who admitted last year to excessive spending on the airport's dime has been ordered to serve 12 months in jail for violating the terms of his conditional discharge.

John P. Slone, 53, former director of planning and development at the airport, was ordered to jail Friday by Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine.

Goodwine ruled that Slone violated the terms of his conditional discharge when he was arrested for driving under the influence in Bartholomew County, Ind. Slone was arrested in November on the DUI charge and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor last month.

In June 2010, Goodwine sentenced Slone to 12 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception, a misdemeanor, for his role in the airport spending scandal.

Goodwine conditionally discharged that sentence for two years. Under a conditional discharge, a person is not subject to supervision that comes with regular probation, and the person avoids jail time if he stays out of trouble with the law.

Slone was pulled over for DUI by an Indiana State Police trooper on Nov. 10 and pleaded guilty May 27.

Trooper Matthew Powell, in a report, detailed several sobriety tests that were administered to Slone after he was stopped in Columbus, Ind., while driving a Honda Accord, according to Fayette Circuit Court records. The trooper said Slone blew a 0.121 in one breath test and a 0.10 in a later breath test at the Indiana jail where Slone was taken. In Kentucky, a person who registers 0.08 or above on a breath test is considered legally impaired.

Slone received a 60-day sentence, but the sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation for six months. His driver's license was suspended for 90 days, and he was ordered to complete alcohol evaluation and treatment classes, according to court records.

"I made a very poor and stupid decision," Slone told Goodwine on Friday, adding that he had successfully completed a sobriety program since the DUI arrest.

The sobriety program he apparently was referring to was one he completed at an adult outpatient treatment center in Evansville, Ind.

Goodwine said that Slone had gone to a bar to celebrate with a contractor the completion of a runway expansion project at an Indiana airport just before he was pulled over.

"That's exactly the background that brought you before this court," she said, referring to a visit to a Dallas strip club that Slone made in 2004 with then Blue Grass Airport executive director Michael Gobb and director of operations John Coon.

The airport paid more than $5,000 for the Texas strip-club visit.

Slone repaid the airport nearly $2,300 before he was indicted on a charge of felony theft by deception, a charge that later was reduced under a plea deal to conspiracy to commit theft by deception. He was sentenced June 25, 2010.

"You assured me at that time that I wouldn't see you again," Goodwine said Friday. "My word means something. My sentences mean something." The judge then said the 12-month sentence would immediately be imposed.

Deputies then ushered Slone into the courtroom holdover area.

Bill Moore, Slone's attorney, said afterward that he and Slone hadn't expected Goodwine to have Slone taken directly into custody. The attorney said he expected Goodwine to add some terms to his conditional discharge, such as completion of another alcohol treatment program, or to put Slone on supervised probation.

"He's shocked. He is truly shocked," Moore said.

"I'm convinced that she (Goodwine) believes that what she did today was the right thing. That's not to say we won't enter a motion for shock probation," he said.

Moore said that alcohol has obviously caused Slone a lot of problems.

Slone, a professional engineer, began working as an aviation project director for RW Armstrong after he was forced out of his job at Blue Grass Airport in early 2009. He has continued to work for the firm in Evansville, traveling back to his home in Versailles on weekends, Moore said.

Slone, Coon, Gobb and former airport administration and finance director John Rhodes were indicted by a Fayette County grand jury in October 2009 after law enforcement agencies spent more than nine months investigating spending at the airport. The Herald-Leader reported earlier in 2009 that the top five leaders of the airport, including those who were indicted, spent more than $530,000 on travel, meals, entertainment and other expenses from 2006 through 2008. A February 2009 report by state Auditor Crit Luallen's office detailed more than $500,000 in undocumented or questionable expenses made by seven top airport officials, including the four who were indicted, during the three-year period.

Coon, who was indicted on the same charge as Slone, received the same plea deal and sentence. Gobb, who was indicted on nine counts of felony theft by deception involving airport money, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft by deception after accepting a plea deal. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but the sentence was probated for five years. Gobb also was sentenced to six months in jail, but that sentence was suspended.

Rhodes, who was indicted on six counts of felony theft by deception, also accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to one count of felony theft by deception. Goodwine sentenced him to 21/2 years in prison but gave him a conditional discharge for five years.

Slone notified the Office of the Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney in mid-April about the charge he faced in Indiana. The notification came shortly after he completed a 20-hour course on substance abuse, according to court records.

Assistant Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Andrea Williams, who prosecuted Slone in connection with the airport spending scandal, filed a motion on June 7 to revoke Slone's conditional discharge.

Moore, in response to the motion, asked that Slone not be ordered to serve the 12 months because it would "unjustly punish" him — because he would lose his job and be unable to financially support his family.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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