Crime

Testimony describes Kentucky state trooper soliciting sex to ignore drug offense

A state police trooper told a Corbin woman last year that he would ignore a drug offense if she would have sex with him, the woman testified in federal court Thursday.

Fred Pennington, who was a trooper at the time, came to Regina West's home in September with a child-welfare worker investigating a report that one of West's sons might have been physically abused.

Pennington saw a crushed pain pill in West's bedroom, but instead of arresting her, he let her snort the pill and solicited her to have sex with him, West said.

"He told me he'll let it all go away if I'll do him," West, 28, testified in federal court in London.

Instead, West cooperated with state police in the case against Pennington, who had been a state police officer for a little more than 10 years. He later resigned.

A federal grand jury indicted Pennington this year on charges of possessing and distributing drugs, for allegedly giving West a pain pill, and on a charge of carrying a gun — his state-issued Glock .40-caliber pistol — in furtherance of a drug crime.

Pennington pleaded guilty this week to the drug charges.

He is fighting the gun charge, however. A conviction on that count would add at least five years in prison to whatever sentence he receives on the drug charges.

The government argues that the gun was an "intimidation factor," as Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins said in a motion, which Pennington used in the attempt to get West to have sex with him in return for a pain pill.

However, Pennington's attorney, James Hibbard, told jurors the former trooper did not touch the gun during his contact with West.

The defense argues that it was a coincidence Pennington had the gun when he solicited West because Pennington was on duty or going to work and that the weapon was not a tool to further a drug crime.

Hibbard said the case is unusual because there is little dispute over the facts.

West testified that when the social worker came to her home, Pennington went with her to the bedroom. He saw the crushed pill and found a container with several other pills, which he put in his pocket, West said.

West said Pennington's attempt to get her to have sex with him scared her.

"What if I said something he didn't like? He could've shot me," she said.

Pennington wanted to come back early the next morning, when her husband would be at work, West said.

West said she told her sister about the incident.

Her sister called Williamsburg police Chief Wayne Bird, whom she knew, and Bird contacted state police, according to a court document.

State police installed recording equipment in West's home. Two officers, Steve Walker and Tracey Woods, hid in another room while West waited for Pennington in the living room.

West testified that Pennington called her about 3:20 a.m. and told her he was on his way. He left his cruiser running when he came in, she said.

Pennington gave her one of the pills he'd taken from her earlier and again asked her to perform oral sex on him, West said.

The other officers emerged at that point and took away Pennington's gun.

Hawkins said in a court motion that in 2004, Pennington pulled over a female driver in Clay County, took her to a cemetery and coerced her to perform oral sex on him.

Hawkins asked to present that evidence to jurors to rebut any claim by Pennington that it was a coincidence he had his gun during the encounter with West.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove disallowed that evidence, saying it would be too prejudicial to Pennington.

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