Ex-Harlan deputy to plead guilty

A former Harlan County deputy charged in the infamous murder of a controversial sheriff plans to plead guilty on Monday.

Roger D. Hall will plead guilty to two counts of facilitation to murder Paul L. Browning and four counts of being involved in drug trafficking, said Henry S. Johnson, commonwealth's attorney for Harlan County.

The facilitation charges stem from Hall's providing a gun and money to kill Browning, Johnson said.

The sentence called for in the plea agreement is 30 years, Johnson said.

Hall, the son of a longtime magistrate in the county, investigated drug cases for the sheriff's office but allegedly turned dirty.

In a previous trial, drug dealer Dewayne Harris testified that by 2002, he was paying Hall up to $3,000 a week for information on drug informants and for helping transport drugs.

At that same time, Browning was trying to make a comeback as sheriff.

Browning had held the post in the early 1980s, but was convicted of plotting to kill political enemies and stripped of the office.

With his right to hold office restored, Browning was running in the 2002 Democratic primary to try to unseat incumbent Steve Duff, Hall's boss.

Harris testified that Hall was concerned Browning would win and fire him. Hall decided he wanted Browning killed, Harris said.

Harris said his uncle Raymond Harris, an unemployed alcoholic, volunteered to kill Browning after overhearing Dewayne Harris and Hall discussing the crime.

Hall supplied a gun and bullets to shoot Browning and paid Raymond Harris $1,000, Dewayne Harris testified.

Raymond Harris shot Browning in the head, and then he and Johnny Epperson, a cocaine addict who helped Dewayne Harris sell drugs, burned his body inside his Toyota pickup truck at a secluded spot in Bell County, according to trial testimony.

Raymond Harris was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years.

Dewayne Harris gave police information about the Browning case after he was arrested in an unrelated federal drug case in March 2003. He pleaded guilty in Browning's slaying and received a 30-year sentence.

State police Detective Michael H. Cornett arrested Hall in December 2008, more than six years after Browning was murdered.

Hall had not been a deputy since late 2003. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to agreeing to hide assets for Edna Harris, Dewayne Harris' wife, while she was in prison.

He also admitted to lying to the FBI about having a relationship with her. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.