A Pikeville private detective who worked for the top Democrat in the Kentucky Senate pleaded guilty Monday in Franklin Circuit Court to four counts of attempting to intimidate an election officer and one count of attempting to interfere with an election.
Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a news release that Keith Justice, 51, was sentenced to 30 days of home incarceration and was ordered to pay a $500 fine and to surrender his private investigator’s license for one year under terms of a plea agreement with Beshear’s Office of Special Prosecutions.
The case was investigated by Beshear’s Department of Criminal Investigations after a complaint was received from the Pike County Clerk’s Office on the night of the May 17, 2016, election.
After interviewing four election officers from the Phelps precinct, Beshear’s investigators learned that Justice had entered the precinct and showed a badge, stating that he was investigating election fraud.
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Beshear said Justice then directed the workers to give written and audio recorded statements before collecting a copy of the precinct sheriff’s report. All of the precinct workers said they wouldn’t have cooperated with Justice had they known he wasn’t a law enforcement officer.
A Pike County grand jury indicted Justice in June 2016.
Justice, a former sergeant in the state police commercial vehicle enforcement division, was employed by state Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, who faced an aggressive primary challenger in a race with combined campaign spending of nearly $820,000. Jones won re-election that day, defeating Pikeville lawyer Glenn Martin Hammond. There was no Republican candidate in the general election.
Jones declined to say what Justice was doing at the Phelps precinct on Election Day, but he denied that his campaign tried to interfere with anyone’s right to vote. He said he had hired Justice to investigate the theft of campaign signs.