Attorney who engaged in extortion scheme with former Sheriff permanently disbarred Thursday
The Kentucky Supreme Court permanently disbarred a former Williamsburg attorney Thursday, who is currently serving a federal prison sentence for his role in an extortion scheme with former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge.
The Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion and order Thursday permanently disbarring Ronnie Wayne Reynolds and ordered him to pay $434.59 in costs related to its proceedings.
"The court finds that permanent disbarment is the only appropriate sanction for such gross misconduct," Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton wrote in the Sept. 20 opinion and order.
Reynolds is currently in the midst of serving a 27-month federal prison sentence for his role in a conspiracy with Hodge to extort money from Reynolds' clients in exchange for lenient plea deals.
On March 16, 2011, Reynolds pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right in U.S. District Court in Lexington.
Reynolds agreed to forfeit $199,500 to the government, which represents the net profit he made on the deal.
In addition to whatever cash he has already forfeited to the government, Reynolds also agreed to forfeit property on Oakland Road in Laurel County that has a 1981 mobile home on it.
Reynolds admitted that on at least three occasions between 2004 and 2007, he and Hodge conspired to extort money from individuals charged with felony drug offenses in state court in exchange for favorable consideration in their cases, according to a court document.
Specifically, Reynolds admitted to making cash payments totaling $57,500 to the former sheriff so that Hodge would refer individuals charged with crimes to Reynolds for representation.
Each of these individuals expected and understood that they would face reduced charges and/or they wouldn't face any period of incarceration if they hired Reynolds based on the sheriff's recommendation, according to Reynolds plea deal.
In addition, Reynolds, acting on behalf of Hodge, also encouraged these same clients to make forfeiture payments and/or cash donations to the Whitley County Sheriff's Office.
Reynolds was suspended from practicing law the day after he pleaded guilty.
In May 2011, Hodge pleaded guilty to his role in the extortion conspiracy and to a drug and money laundering conspiracy, and is a serving a 15.5-year federal prison sentence.
Reynolds is currently incarcerated in a Nashville halfway house and is scheduled for release on Feb. 15, 2013.
Hodge is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio, and is scheduled for release on Nov. 8, 2024.
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