Politics & Government

Kentucky basketball icon Richie Farmer files for bankruptcy

Richie Farmer, right, and lawyer Guthrie True, left U.S. District Court after sentencing in Frankfort, Ky., on Jan. 14, 2014. Farmer was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty last year to misusing state resources during his tenure as Kentucky's agriculture commissioner.
Richie Farmer, right, and lawyer Guthrie True, left U.S. District Court after sentencing in Frankfort, Ky., on Jan. 14, 2014. Farmer was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty last year to misusing state resources during his tenure as Kentucky's agriculture commissioner. palcala@herald-leader.com

Kentucky basketball legend Richie Farmer, whose promising political career was derailed by accusations of misusing state money while he was agriculture commissioner, filed for bankruptcy this week as he tries to rebuild his life after serving time in prison.

The May 4 petition said Farmer is unemployed and living on $194 a month in food stamps and help from his parents, who give him an estimated $400 a month.

Farmer listed assets of $24,259, most of it in his state pension, and liabilities of $385,745.

The biggest debt is $207,904, which was the difference on what he owed on a house in Frankfort and what it brought at a foreclosure sale, according to the petition.

The second-biggest liability Farmer listed was $120,000 in restitution a judge ordered him to pay the state as part of his criminal case.

Farmer filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, in which a judge can order some debts wiped clean.

In Farmer’s case, the debts he is seeking to discharge include about $31,000 in credit-card charges and the shortfall on the foreclosure of his home.

Two debts that can’t be discharged through bankruptcy are Farmer’s court-ordered restitution and an estimated $15,000 in back child support, said his bankruptcy attorney, Matthew B. Bunch of Lexington.

Farmer, who once made $110,000 annually as a state officeholder, said in the petition that he has no property and that his savings and checking accounts are empty.

The assets he listed include $500 worth of furniture, $100 worth of clothes and $200 in cash, along with an estimated $23,000 in his state pension.

Farmer said he rents a home from his parents in Clay County, but he did not list a rent payment. He drives a 2007 Ford Taurus they own.

And the man who once brought fans to their feet with his jump shot said he owns no sports or exercise equipment.

Bunch said Farmer is trying to get back on his feet and is looking for a job where he can earn enough to make good on his obligations.

“He wants to make amends and pay what he owes to his family and his country,” Bunch said.

Having a criminal conviction doesn’t help in the job search, but Farmer is in good spirits, Bunch said.

“He just wants to move forward with his life,” Bunch said Friday. “If there’s anybody that can do it, he can. He’s got a tremendous character.”

Farmer, 46, led Clay County High School to a state basketball championship in 1987 and was a guard on the iconic 1991-92 University of Kentucky team dubbed “The Unforgettables” — players who hung on through a period of NCAA probation and helped Coach Rick Pitino rebuild the program.

UK retired his jersey, which hangs in Rupp Arena.

Farmer, a Republican, easily won terms as state agriculture commissioner in 2003 and 2007, but stumbled while running for lieutenant governor in 2011 after a critical audit. He and then-Senate President David Williams lost in their bid to knock Gov. Steve Beshear from office.

A federal grand jury later charged that Farmer had misused state money.

Among other things, he was accused of creating jobs for close friends who did little or no work; using state employees to build a basketball court at his house and chauffeur his dog; and taking a variety of property the state had paid for, including electronic equipment, guns, knives, refrigerators and filing cabinets.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of misappropriating public resources. The debts he listed in his bankruptcy petition include $8,102 to the attorney who represented him in the case, J. Guthrie True.

Farmer’s bankruptcy petition said he was incarcerated from March 2014 until Dec. 18, when he went to a halfway house in Lexington for a short time.

He was released Jan. 21.

Farmer worked for a couple of months at Shiloh Roadhouse, a popular restaurant in London, said the owner, Scott Smith.

Farmer worked as a host, greeting people and showing them to tables.

Smith said he knew Farmer before he went to prison, and it seemed his religious faith had grown behind bars. He talked of leading Bible studies in prison, Smith said.

Farmer looked good physically and had a great attitude, Smith said.

“He just came in and worked hard,” Smith said. “Wanted to do whatever it takes to start over again.”

Smith said he thought Farmer left to look for another job.

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