State

Constable charged with selling drugs in Kentucky sentenced to decade in prison

A Tennessee constable who trafficked drugs in Eastern Kentucky and played a part in a major vote-buying case has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A judge also ordered Bobby Roy Justice, 69, to pay a $60,000 fine.

Justice lives in Jefferson County, Tennessee, where he was a constable before being indicted in January, but lived in Pike County before that.

Justice was a volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Pike County for about 40 years, according to a court record.

Justice was charged with possessing drugs and conspiring to sell pain pills between 2009 and August 2014, when police stopped his vehicle in Pike County and found him with more than 600 pills.

Justice admitted he got pain pills in Florida and recruited people to sell them in Pike County. That was a common practice in Eastern Kentucky before Florida toughened its drug laws.

Kentucky had a prescription-monitoring system that drug dealers wanted to avoid, and Florida once had lax controls on pain clinics, so traffickers sent couriers to Florida to get pills.

An investigation showed Justice imported more than 90,000 oxycodone pills to the Pike County area in five years to sell, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr.

Justice’s attorney, Michael B. Fox, said in a court document that Justice, who had worked for the United Mine Workers of America and in construction, became addicted to pain medication he received for injuries.

Injuries and pain limited Justice’s ability to work, so he turned to selling some of his medication, according to Fox’s memorandum.

A doctor in Ohio had prescribed Justice a staggering 600 pain pills a month in the early 2000s, the memo said.

The doctor later lost his license for operating a pill mill, according to the memo.

Chief U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell sentenced Justice on Sept. 10.

Long before the drug case, Justice was part of a vote-buying case that received widespread attention because of some of the others involved, including former state Sen. John Doug Hays, a Democrat, and Ross Harris, a wealthy coal operator and political activist who allegedly funneled money to candidates through straw contributors.

Jurors convicted Hays of mail fraud, but an appeals court overturned the conviction. Harris died of cancer after being convicted.

Justice was indicted in that case in 2003, but the charges were dismissed.

A detective testified that after the traffic stop that led to the drug charges against Justice years later, he told federal authorities “he was compensated $120,000 to ‘keep his mouth shut’ and not provide any information in a prior vote-buying conspiracy and prosecution against Ross Harris,” according to a court record

The document did not include any other information about the claim.

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