Imprisoned Knott County judge-executive is tossed out of office

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2013 

A judge ordered imprisoned Knott County Judge-Executive Randy Thompson out of office Friday.

Thompson was convicted in 2008 of conspiring to buy votes in the November 2006 general election by using public funds to improve driveways and build bridges on private property.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove sentenced Thompson to serve 40 months in prison, but he had been able to remain free until December while appealing the conviction.

After a federal appeals court refused in November to reconsider an order upholding his conviction, Van Tatenhove ordered Thompson to begin serving his sentence.

Thompson reported to a federal prison in Pennsylvania on Dec. 6 but kept his office. The fiscal court voted last month to cut off his salary.

Under Kentucky law, a state prosecutor had to file a request to have Thompson removed from office.

Floyd County Commonwealth's Attorney Brent Turner filed the motion as a special prosecutor.

His argument was straightforward, Turner said: "The Constitution says you cannot be a convicted felon and hold office."

Turner said Thompson might have been able to hold on to his title a bit longer if he had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider reviewing his case, but he didn't.

Circuit Judge John David Caudill granted the request to remove Thompson from office after a hearing Friday, Turner said.

Convicted with Thompson were two assistants, John Mac Combs and Phillip G. Champion, and Ronnie Adams, who had been a magistrate and then worked for the county.

Van Tatenhove sentenced Combs to three years in prison, Adams to two years and eight months, and Champion to 18 months.

Thompson, a Republican, became judge-executive as a result of his predecessor's federal vote-buying conviction.

Donnie Newsome, a Democrat, was convicted in 2003 of buying votes, but held on to the office and salary of judge-executive throughout his 16-month sentence, resigning only when an appeals court upheld his conviction — after he'd served his sentence and returned to work.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher appointed Thompson as the first Republican judge-executive in the history of the heavily Democratic county. He won a full term in the tainted 2006 election and won re-election in 2010 while under conviction.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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