Letcher coroner quits after pleading guilty

Letcher County's coroner resigned Friday after admitting he obtained prescription drugs by fraud.

John Cornett pleaded guilty to seven felony counts of what is commonly called doctor shopping, Attorney General Jack Conway's office said in a news release.

Doctor shopping means going to multiple doctors to try to get additional prescriptions for drugs.

Cornett's plea deal required him to resign Friday, according to the news release. Cornett did that with a notice to county Judge-Executive Jim Ward, Ward said.

Ward said the county's two deputy coroners will handle the duties of the office until he can appoint someone, probably next week.

"It really won't put us in a bad spot," Ward said of the resignation.

Coroners work closely with police in investigating deaths.

Cornett's wife, Andrea, a former nurse at the Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospital, pleaded guilty to four counts of stealing drugs, according to the attorney general's office.

Andrea Cornett was charged with stealing painkillers from the hospital, said Shelley Catharine Johnson, a spokeswoman for Conway.

Circuit Judge Sam Wright placed the Cornetts in a pre-trial diversion program for three years. They'll be required to undergo substance-abuse assessment and treatment if necessary, Conway's office said.

If the Cornetts stay out of trouble, they will be eligible to have the drug charges dismissed but they will face up to three years in prison if they aren't successful in the diversion program, Johnson said.

Cornett also agreed not to try to get back the coroner's job during the three-year program, according to the news release.

Conway's office and state police investigated the case.

Cornett is the second coroner to resign in recent months after being charged with a drug offense.

McCreary County Coroner Brandon D. New left office in mid-January, six weeks after he was charged with driving while impaired and possession of drugs.

A sheriff's deputy in neighboring Pulaski County said he found New passed out in a Chevrolet Suburban sitting beside a rural road.

The deputy said in a citation that New had a syringe, like those used to inject drugs, between his fingers. There was a soda-can lid in the SUV that contained white residue, and New had six Xanax pills and half of an OxyContin pill in his pocket, the citation said.

The charges are pending.