Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

November 6, 2013

Former mayor may change plea

By Leeann Akers - Editor
Journal-Times

Nov. 6, 2013 — A former Olive Hill mayor accused of trafficking marijuana near a school apparently may change his plea next month.

Danny Sparks appeared for a status hearing in Carter Circuit Court on Monday but the case was pushed back to later in the day when there appeared to be some confusion about a plea agreement.

Spark's attorney, Robin Webb, asked for the case to be delayed while she “worked some things out” with Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Derrick Willis. However, the two attorneys appeared unable to come to an agreement.

When the case was called several hours later, Commonwealth's Attorney Brandon Ison told Judge Rebecca Phillips that he had already indicated that he did not agree with a pre-trial diversion application Webb filed Oct. 21.

Ison said that the FIVCO Area Drug Enforcement (FADE) Taskforce did not approve of a diversion, which would mean that, if Sparks was not charged with other offenses within an appointed time, the criminal charge would be expunged from his record.

“It was my understanding that the law says this is a prosecutorial responsibility, not that of law enforcement,” Webb said. “In light of that, I would ask for some time to prepare for a change of plea.”

When contacted for comment, a FADE spokesperson told the Journal-Times that Sparks was a voting member of the FADE Taskforce Board of Directors while he served as mayor and was doing so while engaging in illegal drug trafficking.

“Danny Sparks was a public servant who took advantage of the very community he swore to represent,” he said. “A diversion would allow him to potentially run for an elected office again and Sparks should be held to a higher standard.”

Phillips set the change of plea hearing for Dec. 2 at 11:30 a.m. If he pleads guilty, Sparks will face one to five years of incarceration, making him ineligible to run for public office.

Ison said he had offered a plea agreement in the case which had been rejected. He indicated that no other offers had been made.

FADE arrested Sparks in November 2012 for trafficking marijuana within 1,000 yards of a school, a Class D felony. He stepped down as mayor shortly after his arrest.

Sparks was indicted on the charge Feb. 8, 2013, but very little about the FADE investigation is known since Webb waived a preliminary hearing in Carter District Court, which sent the case straight to the grand jury.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.