Jerry Lundergan

Jerry Lundergan, second from right, prepares to enter the federal courthouse, followed by his daughter, former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, on Thursday when he was sentenced to 21 months in prison. (Tom Latek Kentucky Today)

A former state lawmaker, who also served as Kentucky Democratic party chairman, is heading to prison after being convicted of federal campaign violations.

Jerry Lundergan, 73, of Lexington, was convicted last September of making illegal corporate contributions to the failed U.S. Senate bid of his daughter, then-Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2014.

After a daylong hearing at U.S. District Court in Frankfort, in which prosecutors and defense attorneys wrangled over possible aggravating and mitigating circumstances in the case, Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove sentenced Lundergan to 21 months in prison, to be followed by two years supervised release, during which time Lundergan is supposed to have no involvement in political activities.

He was also fined $150,000. Due to the nature of the charges of which he was found guilty, federal sentencing guidelines called for 51 to 63 months in prison. But Judge Van Tatenhove reduced that significantly, due to Lundergan’s health problems.

Several people spoke on Lundergan’s behalf before the sentencing, including his daughter, Abigail Dobson. She told the court, “My family feels a prison sentence is a death sentence, because of his health issues.”

Ginny Ramsey, who heads the Catholic Action Center in Lexington, asked for his sentence to be community service. “Jerry has provided 102,000 meals to us during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Lundergan also addressed the court. “I was here for the grand opening of the J.C. Watts Federal Building in 1973, and never dreamed I’d be in this situation today,” he said. “My choices were bad choices. In a hurry, you make mistakes. They were all my fault completely, and no one else’s.”

Dale Emmons, a campaign consultant for Grimes’ race, was also convicted by the same jury, for his role in the crimes.

“The jury found me guilty and I’m ready to face the consequences,” he told the court. “I know this ordeal has brought shame to my family.

Emmons also suffers from poor health, and although the federal guidelines called for him to serve a prison term of 33 to 41 months, Van Tatenhove, also went well below the guidelines sentencing him to nine months in a halfway house and three years of probation. Emmons is also to abstain from political involvement during that time.    

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Van Tatenhove delayed the start of both men’s sentence until Feb. 9, 2021.

Lundergan’s attorney, Guthrie True, told reporters after the hearing, “This was unreasonably punitive for the facts of this case, which was a dad helping his daughter. But I am appreciative of the court understanding the quality and character of my client, Jerry Lundergan, and varying substantially below the guidelines would have recommended.”

True said now that the sentencing has taken place, they will be appealing the conviction to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

“There are significant constitutional issues that this case raises, and we will be addressing those at the appellate level,” he said. “I still believe that ultimately we will win this case.”

Recommended for you

Load comments

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.