A Knox County official was acquitted Wednesday on a charge that he misappropriated county property by having workers spread gravel on private driveways.
Jurors said they didn’t think Magistrate Jerry “Rabbit” Cox intentionally misappropriated county resources, said attorney David S. Hoskins, who represented Cox with Amanda Lester Hill.
A federal grand jury indicted Cox last year on one charge of misappropriating public property worth more than $5,000, a charge punishable by up to five years in prison.
Cox allegedly told county road workers to spread gravel or install drainage tiles on private property, and he even used his own truck to deliver gravel to private drives.
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Prosecutors said in one motion that there was a recording of Cox and others acknowledging that the practice was wrong and that someone would get in trouble.
Giving people free gravel for their private drives has long been a common way for local officials to win votes in Eastern Kentucky, and it has led to vote-fraud charges.
But Hoskins said there was no testimony that Cox asked anyone for a vote in return for gravel. Several witnesses said they hadn’t asked Cox for gravel and didn’t know who had delivered it.
Defense attorneys argued that Cox did not intentionally misuse taxpayer resources.
After Cox became a magistrate, he bought his own uniform to do roadwork alongside county employees. Cox had been a coal miner earlier and had run a used-car lot.
Cox did buy a dump truck to deliver gravel to help people and even equipped it with a snowplow to clear roads in the winter, Hoskins said.
“He was trying to do things for the good of the county,” Hoskins said. “He adamantly believes he did not do anything wrong.”