Larson protests too much

Fayette Commonweath's Attorney Ray Larson spoke for a lot of frustrated people Friday after the sentencing of former airport chief Mike Gobb on two felony theft charges did not include jail time.

"What's the message to the public when people steal significant sums of money and don't suffer the consequence of incarceration?" he said. "In many parts of our society, too many people interpret the fact that white-collar criminals seldom go to prison as rich man's justice."

One could take his after-the-fact outrage more seriously if not for his own questionable handling of the cases involving four Blue Grass Airport officials who admitted to putting public money to personal use.

First, the prosecutor discovered from news reports — after sentencing of two of the defendants — that Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine had earlier served on a community task force for the airport, meeting with some of the defendants.

Because of that role, the state Court of Appeals had ordered her to recuse herself from another case involving the airport. When Goodwine said she would recuse herself from the Gobb sentencing, if the prosecutor or defense attorney requested, Larson did not request it. He did not request it even when she decided to recuse herself from another case because of ties to Bernie Lovely, the chair of the airport board during Gobb's tenure.

Larson decided to take his chances with Goodwine, who has had a record as a tough, but fair, judge.

Now he is complaining that Gobb did not get jail time, although even he acknowledges that the sentence — probation, restitution, drug treatment and community service — is consistent with the Fayette courts' handling of first-time offenders.

There is no doubt that Goodwine mishandled these high-profile cases.

She should have recused herself or at least offered to do so earlier. Her comments about Christianity during one sentencing gave the impression that she was giving the defendant a break because of professed religious beliefs. And her statement about not getting letters from the public before sentencing raised questions about whether she took public corruption seriously enough.

But Larson, who raised no objections to the judge, cannot pretend he had no role in this outcome.

He boasts in his e-mail newsletter of being "the sharp eye." If so, he should have seen this one coming.