Politics & Government

Charges against Fletcher should be dismissed, defense attorneys argue

FRANKFORT-- Because prosecutors have failed to show Gov. Ernie Fletcher is guilty of any crime, misdemeanor charges that he illegally rewarded political supporters with protected state jobs should be dismissed, defense attorneys argued in court documents filed yesterday.

Defense attorneys said prosecutors have based their case on "cryptic notes made by the governor's secretary" that demonstrate only that Fletcher was present at a few meetings.

"Noticeably missing is any reference to the governor having said or done anything inappropriate or illegal," defense attorneys Steve Pitt and Kent Westberry said in a 12-page supplement to a previously filed motion to dismiss the charges.

Fletcher, who pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 8.

Pitt and Westberry said prosecutors from the state attorney general's office included "glaring factual deficiencies" in documents they filed in support of continuing the case against Fletcher. Those deficiencies underscore the need to dismiss the charges, the defense attorneys said.

Special Judge David E. Melcher could rule as soon as Friday on the motion to dismiss.

Scott Crawford-Sutherland, the attorney general's top prosecutor, urged Melcher in a 47-page brief last week not to dismiss the charges. He argued that Fletcher wasn't singled out for prosecution, as defense attorneys contend, and isn't immune from prosecution.

Defense attorneys had filed a motion in July asking that the charges be dismissed because previous governors, who allegedly committed acts similar to those Fletcher is accused of, weren't prosecuted.

"At the outset, Gov. Fletcher wants to assure this court that by raising a selective prosecution defense he is not admitting that he did anything illegal ... ," Pitt and Westberry wrote in the legal brief filed yesterday. "Nor is the governor attempting to justify or even excuse any alleged illegal activity on grounds that prior administrations engaged in it."

A pretrial conference is set for Friday. Vicki Glass, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said the judge could issue a ruling at that hearing.

For the past year, a special grand jury has been investigating whether the Fletcher administration broke state law by basing personnel decisions on political considerations. The grand jury indicted Fletcher in May on charges of criminal conspiracy, official misconduct and violating a prohibition against political discrimination.

Several current and former state employees who appeared before the grand jury allege they were discriminated against by the Republican administration because of their political leanings. They claimed to have been passed over for promotions, transferred, demoted or fired.