TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge was slated for a jury trial Tuesday morning — but no jurors were seated, and no trial kicked off.
Hodge, 54, faces a 21-count indictment in Whitley County Circuit Court.
That indictment includes 12 counts of abuse of public trust exceeding $10,000 but less than $100,000, six counts of abuse of public trust less than $10,000, and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
“He will be in court at 1 p.m. on Thursday,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen C. Trimble.
According to the Kentucky State Courts docket listing located on their website, Hodge is slated “to enter (a) plea” Thursday.
Trimble said Tuesday that he looked for the former sheriff to take that course of action. “I expect he will enter a plea,” the Commonwealth’s attorney said.
Hodge was sentenced to federal prison for 15 and a half years in September 2011 in U.S. District Court in London on three separate crimes — conspiring to obstruct, delay and affect…commerce…by extortion, using controlled substances without proper prescriptions, and conspiring with a former sheriff’s office employee who did bookkeeping.
He serves his sentence for these federal convictions at the Elkton Federal Prison in Ohio, but is currently jailed at the Laurel County Correctional Center.
An August order shows Hodge needed to be brought to that jail no later than Oct. 22 — and JailTracker records confirm he was booked into the facility that day.
Trimble said that if Hodge does enter a plea agreement in court Thursday, then whatever sentence imposed would be concurrent to his federal sentence. “All these (allegations) occurred at the same time,” Trimble explained. “We kind of worked hand-in-hand with federal authorities, who were very helpful to us.”
On Oct. 17, a motion for rearraignment was filed by Hodge’s attorneys Jason Williams and William G. Crabtree — and copies submitted to Trimble and Judge David A. Tapp. Tapp, from Pulaski County, was assigned as a special judge to this case earlier this year.
On Sept. 3, a petition for a change of venue was entered by Hodge’s attorneys, which included affidavits from 15 people who believe Hodge would be unable to receive a fair trial in Whitley County. Reasons for the requested change included the extensive publicity of the case, the charges levied against the former sheriff, and poor public opinion with many residents believing Hodge guilty.