U.S. District Court Judge Gregory VanTatenhove told former state trooper Michael Fred Pennington that what he did when he traded Lortab pills for sexual favors it was a very, very serious abuse of public trust in sentencing him to 74 months (six years and two months) in prison.
While VanTatenhove noted that he had no choice in the sentence for the charge of which he was found guilty, carrying a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, which carried a mandatory five-year prison sentence. he did have some leeway when it comes to the two counts of trafficking drugs. Each charge carried a potential prison sentence of 10 to 16 months, which the judge may order served concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (back-to-back).
"I’m sorry the court had to hear this," Pennington said, "I made the biggest mistake of my life."
VanTatenhove noted that Pennington’s crimes are not serious when compared to crimes such as murder, rape or robbery.
"It really goes to the heart of people’s expectations of those charged with protecting them," VanTatenhove said. "This undermines that."
Based on numerous letters written by family and friends on Pennington’s behalf, Pennington’s willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and the remorse he has shown and the substance of the person he has shown beyond that one day VanTatenhove ordered Pennnington to serve 14 months on each of the drug trafficking counts, concurrently.
Following his release from prison, Pennington will be placed on supervised release for four years.
Pennington pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking charges in May and was later found guilty of possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug crime.
The case stems from an incident in Sept., 2011 when Pennington went to the victim’s trailer on Tom Town Hollow Road off of U.S. 25W in Corbin to escort a social services worker who was investigating child abuse allegations.
According to officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pennington spotted a crushed Lortab pill and found a container with additional pills while at the residence. He told the woman that if she had sex with him, he would not arrest or charge her.
The woman notified state police of Pennington’s actions and an investigation ensued.
Pennington returned to the woman’s trailer about 4:30 a.m. where he offered the woman one of the pills he had taken from her residence the previous day in exchange for oral sex. At the time, Pennington was driving his police cruiser and in full uniform.
During cross examination by Pennington’s attorney, James Hibbard at the trial in May, Capt. Scott Miller, commander of Post 11 in London where Pennington was assigned, said that Pennington was assigned to work with Laurel County Sheriff’s deputies on a roundup of suspected drug dealers that morning and would be in uniform for that special detail.
However, under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Heidi Hawkins, Miller noted that Pennington lives in London and was to report to the sheriff’s office, meaning there was no reason for him to be in Corbin.
Miller testified that state police had been tipped off about the situation and troopers had been stationed to watch the residence in case Pennington did arrive. Video surveillance had been set up both inside and outside the trailer. In addition, two troopers were hiding in the bedrooms of the trailer to take Pennington into custody before he could possibly harm the victim or himself.
"We formulated this plan to confirm or deny the allegation," Miller said. "I wanted to protect Freddy if it was a false complaint and if it was true, I wanted to have solid evidence."
Pennington was taken into custody minutes after he entered the residence. Miller drove Pennington back to Post 11.
Pennington offered his resignation soon after reaching post.
A search of Pennington’s cruiser turned up additional pills.
"This case illustrates that the Kentucky State Police continues to react quickly regarding allegations of misconduct involving an employee," said Rodney Brewer, Kentucky State Police Commissioner. "Although this is a rare occurrence, it underscores the public oath we have taken to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from all criminals."