Kentucky disability lawyer pleads guilty to campaign-finance violation

bestep@herald-leader.comSeptember 23, 2013 

A well-known Eastern Kentucky disability lawyer pleaded guilty this month to a campaign-finance violation.

Eric C. Conn pleaded guilty Sept. 5 to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to give money to another person in February 2012 to give to a candidate on his behalf.

The charge said the donation was intended for a candidate for the Kentucky Supreme Court. That candidate was not identified in Conn's plea. However, state records show Conn contributed $1,000 in his own name to Justice Will T. Scott's re-election effort in February 2012.

Scott returned the donation in March, state records show. Scott defeated Appeals Court Judge Janet Stumbo to retain his seat on the high court.

Conn was sentenced to 12 months in jail, conditionally discharged for two years. Conn also agreed to pay $5,600 to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's office to cover the cost of investigating the case.

An attorney who has represented Conn, Beverly R. Storm, said Conn cooperated in the investigation.

"Mr. Conn said he deeply, deeply regrets this mistake" and apologizes, Storm said.

Conn is widely known in Eastern Kentucky for representing people trying to get federal disability payments.

His office on U.S. 23 between Prestonsburg and Pikeville is something of a landmark, with a replica of the Lincoln Memorial that Conn says is the largest outside the real thing in Washington, D.C.

Conn has made millions of dollars representing people in disability claims to the Social Security Administration.

However, a lawsuit pending in federal court alleges he colluded with a federal disability judge to get hundreds of claims approved fraudulently. Conn has asked that the complaint be dismissed, saying it does not establish that any disability claims were false.

Conn has not been charged criminally in that case.

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

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