Politics & Government

Kentucky lawmaker charged with breaking liquor law he tried to change

State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, a liquor store owner who tried to change some liquor laws during the recent legislative session, has been charged with illegally transporting alcoholic beverages through dry or moist territory.
State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, a liquor store owner who tried to change some liquor laws during the recent legislative session, has been charged with illegally transporting alcoholic beverages through dry or moist territory. LRC Public Information

State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, has been charged with breaking one of the half-dozen liquor laws he attempted to change during the 2017 General Assembly.

Morgan, 66, who owns a chain of Liquor World retail stores in south-central Kentucky, was charged April 26 with illegally transporting alcoholic beverages through dry or moist territory.

A Barbourville police officer said he caught Morgan illegally carrying “a large amount of assorted liquor” in the back of a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, according to the police citation. Morgan told the officer he was moving the liquor between his stores.

Under Kentucky law, alcohol can be delivered to retail outlets or bars only by vehicles that have a state-approved transporter’s license. The crime with which Morgan is charged is a Class B misdemeanor that can bring up to 90 days in jail, a $250 fine or both.

Morgan is scheduled to be arraigned May 15 in Knox District Court.

In 2015, Morgan overcame a similar charge in Clay County. He persuaded Clay District Judge Henria Bailey-Lewis to dismiss a count of illegally transporting alcoholic beverages on the grounds that it “is an unreasonable restraint on the free flow of commerce and serves no legitimate state interest and does not impact and/or interfere with the payment of tax revenue.”

Morgan won’t comment on his legal case, a House Republican spokeswoman said Thursday. House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, also won’t comment, she said.

During the legislative session, Morgan tried to rewrite a number of laws affecting liquor retailers. One of those proposals, House Bill 155, would have made it legal for liquor dealers to move liquor on their own between commonly owned stores. A House committee reported the bill favorably, but it never received a vote in the full House.

Madison County voters elected Morgan to the House last November.

On Friday morning, the Madison County Democratic Party will protest outside Morgan’s Liquor World store in Richmond to call for his resignation from the legislature, party chairman Darrin Wilson said.

“This legal problem was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s one thing to introduce bills that positively impact your business, it’s another to believe you are above the law,” Wilson said. “He has become an embarrassment for Madison County.”

John Cheves: 859-231-3266, @BGPolitics

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