Kentucky governor indicted over hiring practices
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(CNN) -- Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher was indicted Thursday on misdemeanor charges that he directed a scheme to illegally award state jobs to political supporters, the latest twist in a year-long probe into hiring practices in his administration.
After the indictment, the Republican governor released a statement saying the charges were the result of a "politically motivated, media-driven investigation" by Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo. Fletcher said his attorneys would file a motion to disqualify Stumbo and his staff from the case.
While the charges are misdemeanors, Fletcher -- who became the Bluegrass State's first GOP governor in more than three decades when he took office in 2003 -- would be forced to step down if convicted.
Fletcher, 53, was indicted by a special state grand jury on three counts of criminal conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination. In addition to losing his office, he could face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine on each count if convicted, said Vicki Glass, a Stumbo spokeswoman.
"The grand jury has spoken, and Governor Fletcher is entitled to the presumption of innocence until and when he is proven guilty in a court of law," Glass said. She refused additional comment on the charges, except to say that "the indictment speaks for itself."
Fletcher's spokesman, Brett Hall, said "the grand jury indicted the governor on vague and difficult-to-understand charges," calling Stumbo "one of the most partisan Democrats in Kentucky."
Hall said Fletcher was "philosophical" about the indictment, adding, "We believe we'll prevail in the courts."
The grand jury also handed up 14 other indictments Thursday, but they were kept under seal.
The indictment alleged Fletcher "ordered, directed and otherwise approved the development and implementation... of the 'Governor's Personnel Initiative,'" which was designed to place political appointees beholden to the governor in merit-based state jobs.
Thirteen former administration officials and Fletcher associates had previously been indicted in connection with the investigation. The governor had issued blanket pardons to those caught up in the probe, although he excluded himself.
Amid the turmoil of the investigation, Fletcher has also been battling serious health problems.
In February, the governor was hospitalized for 18 days after developing a blood infection after undergoing gall bladder surgery. Just a week after being released in March, he developed a potentially life-threatening blood clot in his arm that landed him back in the hospital.
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