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Governor's Ex-Paramour Pleads Guilty

The former mistress of Kentucky's Paul Patton strikes a deal and may avoid jail in fraud case.

October 03, 2003|From Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Gov. Paul E. Patton's former mistress pleaded guilty Thursday to mail fraud for applying to have her ex-husband's business get special consideration it did not deserve.

Tina Conner pleaded guilty to the federal count in exchange for prosecutors' recommendation of probation instead of prison time.

"This has been very devastating to my family, my children," Conner said outside court. "But I have accepted responsibility for my actions, and I can feel good about that."

She expressed indignation, however, that she alone was charged, calling it "a chilling message to whistleblowers."

Patton, a Democrat whose term expires in December, acknowledged his affair with Conner, effectively ending his political career. He has consistently denied doing anything illegal or misusing his power to help Conner -- or to harm her businesses after the affair, as she alleged in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Conner admitted she fraudulently applied to have a construction company run by her ex-husband certified as a female-headed "disadvantaged business enterprise" to qualify for contracts set aside for woman- or minority-owned businesses. Sentencing was set for Jan. 8.

Conner has said Patton helped the company, ST Construction, win the certification, which eventually earned it a single contract worth about $30,000, according to the plea agreement.

Patton has admitted that he personally asked officials at the Transportation Cabinet to review the application, but he said he would do the same for anyone who asked and did not order anyone to approve it.

Conner said Thursday that Patton's denials were "malarkey." She said she told Patton that officials were questioning her application and that Patton later told her that he had spoken with Jim Codell, his transportation secretary, and that her problem would be resolved.

Conner's attorney, Thomas E. Clay, said Codell was never called to a grand jury because his attorney told investigators that Codell would invoke his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Codell's attorney, William E. Johnson, confirmed that a subpoena was issued but that Codell never testified.

Patton has not been charged with a crime, but he has been accused by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission of "a clear misuse of power" for allegedly intervening to get a promotion for a friend of Conner's at her request.

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