Special Reports

Former Blue Grass Airport executive accepts plea deal

John G. Coon, former director of operations at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport, accepted a plea deal Wednesday morning that amends a felony theft charge against him to a misdemeanor and requires him to testify at any trials involving any other defendants in a case involving spending of airport money.

Coon, 48, of Versailles, pleaded guilty to the amended charge of conspiracy to commit theft by deception, which carries penalties of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of not more than $500. Prosecutors recommended a 12-month jail sentence but no fine.

The amended charge was the same charge to which John P. Slone, 52, the airport's former director of planning and development, pleaded guilty on Friday. Prosecutors recommended the same sentence for Slone and, as with Coon, could ask him to testify against others in the case.

Coon and Slone initially were charged with one count each of felony theft by deception, which carries a penalty of one to five years in prison and could mean a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 or double the gain from a theft.

The two men are among four former airport officials indicted in October after law enforcement agencies spent more than nine months investigating spending at the airport.

The Herald-Leader reported last year that the top five leaders of the airport, including the four who were indicted, spent more than $530,000 on travel, meals, entertainment and other expenses from 2006 through 2008.

Former airport executive director Michael Gobb has been charged with nine counts of felony theft by deception. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to be in court April 16.

John Rhodes, former airport administration and finance director, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony theft by deception. He will appear in court April 9.

If a defendant is convicted of multiple counts of felony theft by deception, a judge decides whether the sentences should be served concurrently or consecutively. There is a 20-year maximum.

The airport board forced Gobb, Rhodes, Coon and Slone to step down from their jobs in January 2009.

Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine scheduled Coon's sentencing for May 7.

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