West Buechel: Flimflam part I – Slick Rick

How did Richard Richards, a recently convicted drug dealer, win the election for Mayor of West Buechel and, as a felon, take office? The answer is simple. He and his lawyer lied.

An information void

The Louisville press coverage of Richards’ arrest and guilty plea in the months leading up to the November, 2014, general election was sporadic and incomplete. Richards undertook an aggressive propaganda campaign to paint a picture of himself as an innocent man caught up in the jaws of legal technicalities and over-zealous law enforcement.

Throw Mother under the bus

Richards complained that he was in great  pain from pinched nerves in his lumbar spine, and the insurance company stopped paying for his much needed pain medication.

Richards explained that his mother in Florida shipped a few extra prescription pain pills to him without his knowledge, but she was goofy enough to tell FedEx what was in the package. Supposedly, that’s how law enforcement knew oxycodone was in the shipment. Mom let the cat out of the bag herself, according to Rick Richards..

Bashing in Richards’ front door because of Mom’s unthinking generosity and concern sounded like a gross over-reaction by the police. Poor Rick Richards was being victimized by government thugs.

After the election, Richards offered that he refused to tell the police who shipped the pills, because he didn’t want to get his mother into trouble.

These two stories cannot both be true. If narcotics agents knew about the shipment because Mom told the FedEx driver, law enforcement did not need Richards to talk. If police didn’t know who sent the package because Richards refuse to tell them, then law enforcement found out about the pill package some other way, and not because Mom gabbed too much.

That’s the experience of Richard Richards in a nutshell. Different stories at different times, the stories do not add up and all of his problems are blamed on somebody else. It is a recurring pattern.

An innocent man

Another part of Richards’ public disinformation campaign is his insistence that he entered an Alford plea in his criminal case, and not a guilty plea.

Frankly, I had never heard of an Alford plea before Richards mentioned it. In other parts of the country, this type of plea is called “nolo contendere” or “no contest.” Common practice in Kentucky is to use the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case, North Carolina v. Alford (1970), which fully legitimized the practice of allowing a criminal defendant to voluntarily accept a conviction without admitting guilt. This is very different from the typical guilty plea where the defendant must admit, usually in open court, that he is guilty of the crime.

If you were to ask Richard Richards today if he admitted to drug trafficking, he would deny it. Thus is the destructive effect of too many pills for too many years, and it explains why Richards is such an effective liar. He believes his own B.S., sincerely.

But, if you trot downtown to the Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, the paperwork in Richards’ criminal case file tells a different story.

A tale of two court forms

Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts supplies different forms for Alford Pleas and for Guilty Pleas. Form AOC-491.2 (Alford Plea) provides:

9. Pursuant to North Carolina vs. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970), I wish to plead “GUILTY” in reliance on the attached “Commonwealth’s Offer on a Plea of Guilty.” In so pleading, I do not admit guilt, but I believe the evidence against me strongly indicates guilt and my interests are best served by a guilty plea.”

Form AOC-491 (Guilty Plea) states:

    8. Because I am GUILTY, and make no claim of innocence, I wish to plead “GUILTY” in reliance on the attached “Commonwealth’s Offer on a Plea of Guilty.”

If you look in the Circuit Court Clerk’s file, you will find that Richards signed a Form AOC-491 Guilty Plea and not a Form AOC-491.2 Alford Plea.

Richard Richards, Mayor

All of Richards’ story telling to the contrary cannot change the simple fact he admitted in court to be a felony drug trafficker.

Of course, he might have lied about that too. It is still a very active topic of discussion here in the West Buechel neighborhood if Richards is just a problem drug user or if he is also a drug dealer, these days.

Putting felony convictions and drug use aside, the most vexing problem in West Buechel City Hall is that Richard Richards is a rotten Mayor who is stubbornly dishonest, incompetent, corrupt and unresponsive. That is our opinion, which many others share.

The most common nickname I’ve heard around town for Rick Richards is “Slick Rick,” because he’s been getting away with it for so long.

West Buechel’s Felon for Mayor

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On May 14, 2014, the Narcotics Division of the Louisville Police Department executed a no-knock forced entry search warrant at the West Buechel residence of Richard W. Richards. They kicked in his front door. Inside, the police found Richards flushing pills down the toilet. Still, they also recovered a quantity of prescription oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets, but no prescriptions. Richards was arrested and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and tampering with physical evidence.

The pills had been delivered to Richards that day by FedEx. Richards refused to tell the police the identity of the person who shipped the prescription pills to him.

Before the August 11, 2014 deadline, Richards filed his nominating petition to place his name to be on November’s general election ballot. Richards was running for the office of Mayor in the City of West Buechel.

On August 26, 2014, Richards entered a guilty plea for two Class D Felony counts, Case No. 14-CR-2251 in the Jefferson Circuit Court, from his May arrest. A plea bargain with the Commonwealth’s Attorney allowed Richards to enter a four-year Pretrial Diversion probation program.

September 22, 2014. Richard’s guilty plea was accepted and the plea agreement was approved by the Jefferson Circuit Court.

In the November, 2014, general election, Richards won the West Buechel Mayor’s race by ten votes. He took the Oath of Office at a ceremony in December and he then undertook the powers and duties of office on January 1, 2015 and he still holds that office.

1. Question: Can Kentucky felony probationers vote or hold public office?

Answer: No.

The regular conditions of probation in Kentucky, known as the Conditions of Supervision, include this statement, “I understand that I have lost the right to vote and hold public office. When I become eligible I may apply for Restoration of Civil Rights.”

2. Question: Does a guilty plea count as a conviction?

Answer: Yes, once it is accepted by the court. :

Commonwealth v. Derringer, 386 SW 3d 123 – (Kentucky Supreme Court, 2012)

“Upon pleading guilty, the defendant’s “status as a ‘convicted felon’ was established” [quoting Thomas v. Commonwealth, 95 S.W.3d 828, 830 (Ky. 2003)] ” . . . a defendant is considered convicted of the offense, for certain purposes, once he enters the guilty plea”

3. Question: Does a guilty plea count as a conviction when there is a pre-trial diversion?

Answer: Yes.

The Kentucky Supreme Court also stated in Thomas, “once the trial court accepted his guilty plea to the underlying felony, the appellant was a convicted felon until such time as he completed the diversion program.,” (quoted in Praither v. Commonwealth, 301 S.W.3d 20 (Kentucky Supreme Court, 2009))

4. Question: Is Richard Richards a convicted felon?

Answer: Yes, until he successfully completes the diversion probation.

If Richards successfully completes his four-year Pretrial Diversion period of supervised probation in 2018, the charges will be listed as `dismissed-diverted’ and it shall not afterwards constitute a criminal conviction. KRS 533.258(1). In the meantime, however, Kentucky law considers Richards to be a convicted felon.

5. Question: Why cannot felons hold public office in Kentucky?

Answer: Kentucky Constitution, Section 150.

“All persons shall be excluded from office who have been, or shall hereafter be, convicted of a felony, or of such high misdemeanor as may be prescribed by law, but such disability may be removed by pardon of the Governor.”

The question remains: How, as a convicted felon and self-confessed drug dealer, can Richard W. Richards legally serve as Mayor of West Buechel?

6. Question: Has Richard Richards’ rights been restored by the Governor?

Answer: No.

Richards is not eligible to have his civil right restored while he is still on probation, and under Kentucky’s diversion statute, his rights will resume automatically if he successfully completes the program.

7. Question: Why is Richard Richards, a convicted felon, Mayor of West Buechel?

Answer: Next time.

There’s more to this story.