Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 5, 2012

Man pleads guilty to shooting at deputies

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — A man who shot at Boyd County sheriff’s deputies during a drug raid last year pleaded guilty last week to charges stemming from the incident.

In so doing, Howard D. Rutherford, 50, agreed to accept a 15-year prison sentence.

Rutherford entered guilty pleas Friday to charges of attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree drug trafficking, Special Prosecutor Gary Conn said. He was sentenced to 15 years on the former charge and five years on the latter, with the terms to run concurrently.

Under state sentencing guidelines, Rutherford will be eligible for parole after he has served 20 percent, or about three years, of his sentence. He has already spent about 14 months in custody, meaning he could meet with the parole board in less than two years.

Conn said he found it “unbelievable” the state did not classify attempted murder of a police officer as a violent offense, which would require Rutherford to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before becoming parole eligible.

“I think that’s a huge oversight in the violent-offender statute,” he said.

However, Conn noted just because Rutherford becomes parole eligible in roughly 22 months, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be released then. Recent studies have shown Kentucky offenders are rarely granted parole the first time they seek it.

Conn said he consulted with Sheriff Terry Keelin on the plea deal and Keelin signed off on it.

Deputies went to Rutherford’s home in the 8600 block of Ky. 5 the night of Aug. 31, 2011, to serve a search warrant, according to the sheriff’s department. The warrant was based on a drug buy at the residence earlier in the day by an informant working for the department.

During the execution of the warrant, deputies encountered Rutherford standing in a doorway brandishing a firearm, the sheriff’s department said.

Rutherford was told several times to put down the weapon and step out where the deputies could see him. Rutherford  responded by telling the deputies he would shoot them if they didn’t leave his property.

After several attempts to persuade Rutherford to step out of the house, he fired his gun at the deputies.

The deputies continued to tell Rutherford to put down his weapon and step out of the house, and, after several minutes, he complied, the sheriff’s department said.

After taking Rutherford into custody, deputies inspected the weapon he’d fired at them and found it had double-fed and Rutherford was unable to clear the jam.

A search of the residence turned up large quantities of pills and cash and the four additional suspects who were found hiding inside.

Deputies arrested three others who were in the residence on drug-trafficking charges.

Conn, who is commonwealth’s attorney for Carter, Elliott and Morgan counties, was appointed special prosecutor because Boyd Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason Greer went with deputies to Rutherford’s residence to serve the warrant and, in so doing, became a witness in the case.

Rutherford waived a presentencing report and was finally sentenced Friday by Boyd Circuit Judge George W. Davis III, Conn said.

The four found inside Rutherford’s residence — Mickie L. Rutherford of Ky. 5; and  Jevon K. Thomas, Ruth A. Roberson and Lennon McGee Jr., all of Detroit, were indicted for first-degree trafficking. Conn said those cases are pending, but he hoped to have them resolved before the end of the year.

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