Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 6, 2014

Former mayor sentenced to 2 years

By KENNETH HART
The Independent

GRAYSON — Former Olive Hill Mayor Danny Sparks was sentenced Monday to two years in the Carter County Detention Center for selling marijuana to an undercover informant.

Sparks, 56, pleaded guilty last month to the Class D felony charge of marijuana trafficking within 1,000 yards of a school. Under the terms of his plea bargain, Sparks agreed to accept a two-year sentence and prosecutors agreed to “stand silent” on the issue of whether Sparks should receive probation, said Sparks’ attorney, Robin Webb of Grayson.

Webb requested probation for her client at Monday’s sentencing hearing, but her request was denied by Carter Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips, who ordered Sparks to report to the jail Feb. 3 to begin serving his sentence.

“He has no prior criminal charges or convictions, so this is all new to him,” Webb said of her client. “He’s disappointed and apprehensive, no doubt. He made a terrible mistake, and he has paid dearly for it.”

Sparks will be eligible to apply for shock probation — where an offender is “shocked” into compliance by a brief exposure to jail or prison conditions — after he has served 30 days, Webb said. He has credit for a day served, so Webb said she intended to seek shock probation after he has served 29 more days.

Webb had originally sought diversion, under which Sparks’ record would be expunged after five years if he did not commit any other crimes. However, the commonwealth would not agree to that, she said.

Sparks was arrested Nov. 28, 2012, after selling marijuana to an undercover informant working for the FADE Drug Task Force. The transaction took place in a parking lot near Olive Hill Elementary School, police said.

FADE said the investigation leading to Sparks’ arrest had been ongoing for several weeks.

Following his arrest, Sparks wrote a resignation letter in which he said he’d made a bad mistake and failed the city of Olive Hill and its people. However, that letter was never submitted to the city council.

Sparks, who’d been mayor since 2000, resigned a few days later. His brief, hand-written letter of resignation didn’t mention his arrest. Instead, it cited “present circumstances” and said resignation would be best for the city, the council and his family.

The council appointed one of its members, Kenny Fankell, to serve the remainder of Sparks’ term, which expires in December.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.