A former magistrate in southeastern Kentucky admitted he illegally sold pain pills while running for re-election in 2018.
Jerry “Rabbit” Cox, 70, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in London to two felony charges of selling drugs.
Cox acknowledged selling 10 oxycodone pills in April 2018 to an undercover informant helping police. Nine days later, he sold 38 hydrocodone pills to an informant.
“I sold pills,” Cox said when U.S. Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram asked him to describe what he’d done.
In the first charge covered in the plea, Cox sold pills from his home. He made the second sale at his business, a car lot, Cox said during a plea hearing.
Cox was running for another term in the May 2018 Republican primary in Knox County at the time he sold the pills. He won the nomination but lost in the November general election.
A federal grand jury indicted Cox on a total of six charges of selling drugs in the weeks before the May 2018 election. The government agreed to dismiss four charges as part of Cox’s guilty plea.
U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom must still approve Cox’s plea. It would be unusual for her to turn it down.
The maximum penalty under the plea would be 40 years in prison, but Cox’s sentence is likely to be much lower under advisory federal guidelines.
If Boom accepts the plea, Cox would ordinarily be required to go to jail right away because of the length of the potential sentence he faces.
However, his attorney, David S. Hoskins, said in court Monday that he will argue for allowing Cox to remain free pending sentencing, which could take place in about four months.
Cox, a former coal miner, faced a federal charge in 2016 of misappropriating taxpayer-owned property while he was a magistrate for allegedly having county workers spread gravel or install drainage tiles on private property.
Improving private property has been a common way to win votes in Eastern Kentucky. However, Hoskins said there was no evidence Cox asked anyone for a vote in return for the work.
A jury acquitted Cox on those charges in 2017.