LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former University of Kentucky basketball star and state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has pleaded guilty to charges of corruption.

He was a basketball legend with a promising career in politics. Now, Richie Farmer is a convicted felon.

"Richie's glad to bring this chapter of his life to a close. This has been difficult on him and his family," Farmer's attorney Guthrie True told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Frankfort.

Farmer pleaded guilty to two corruption charges resulting from his two terms as Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner.

He admitted that he put friends on the public payroll who did little or no work. He also used taxpayers dollars to buy personal gifts.  The U.S. Attorney called the evidence, "overwhelming."

"Too often, Mr. Farmer looked upon his office and the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture more as a personal playhouse than as an opportunity to render public service," said Kerry Harvey, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Farmer became a basketball icon at Clay County High School and later was part of a UK team that became known as "The Unforgettables."

He translated his fame into a promising career in politics.

Farmer said nothing to reporters, but told the judge, "I let down the people of Kentucky, my friends and my family."

"Richie acknowledges his misjudgments that have brought him here today. He did that with the court. He's done that not only for the court but for the people of Kentucky," said True.

If the judge agrees, Farmer could serve 21-27 months -- around two years -- in federal prison. He must also pay $120,500 in restitution to the state.

He will also avoid even more federal and state corruption charges.

"Had there been a second indictment, we were considering mail fraud charges in connection with some of the campaign finance reports," said Harvey.

"I guess ultimately Richie weighed the risks. He decided to protect against the big play, you might say," said True.

Farmer returns on Jan. 14th for formal sentencing. Meantime, he remains free on bond.


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