A retired state coal mine inspector charged in a bribery case involving former state Rep. W. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, will enter a plea deal with prosecutors, according to court documents.
In a motion filed in U.S. District Court, Kelly Shortridge said he will enter a plea deal to one count of bribery, which could bring up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, federal sentencing rules allow leniency for defendants who admit their guilt and for cooperating witnesses. No date has been set for Shortridge's next court appearance.
A call to Shortridge's attorney, Kent Westberry of Louisville, was not returned Tuesday. The U.S. attorney's office in Lexington declined to comment on the plea deal.
Hall is scheduled to stand trial in Pikeville on April 20. He and Shortridge were indicted together in October.
Never miss a local story.
According to the indictment, Hall funneled $46,343 to Shortridge through a shell company in exchange for Shortridge ignoring repeated safety and environmental violations at Hall's Pike County surface mines.
The Herald-Leader first reported in 2013 on a history of unresolved violations at Hall's mines and on his dealings with Shortridge, whom he had accused — in phone calls to state officials — of demanding cash from him. Prosecutors opened their investigation following the Herald-Leader's stories.
Hall was defeated in last year's Democratic primary for his House seat. He spent 14 years in the legislature, where he was chairman of the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee and vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, posts that allowed him to help regulate the coal industry in which he owns companies.
In 2011, the Legislative Ethics Commission fined Hall $2,000 after one of his companies won $171,000 in no-bid sewer line projects that he had voted to include in the state budget.
Shortridge was an inspector in Pikeville with the Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement for 24 years, until he resigned in February 2014.