A federal judge will announce the prison sentences of former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford and three of his former deputies on Oct. 6, closing the latest chapter one of the biggest public-corruption cases in WNC history.
Medford and former deputy Guy Kenneth Penland will be sentenced in federal District Court in Asheville at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 6, according to federal court records. A jury found the two men guilty in May after an 11-day trial that featured stacks of documents and a string of witness who described their active involvement in a multi-million dollar gambling operation in Western North Carolina. The evidence detailed how Medford and Penland collected tens of thousands of dollars from the owners and operators of video-poker machines operated illegally in the back rooms and quiet corners of convenience stores.
Johnny Harrison and Ronnie Eugene “Butch” Davis will be sentenced at 2 p.m. on Oct. 6, the court records show. Harrison and Davis both pleaded guilty to charges related to the illegal-gambling operation. Harrison testified against Medford during the trial and said he collected money from video-poker-machine operators and owners and delivered it to Medford. He also explained that Medford used twice-yearly golf tournaments, which included teams of players sponsored by video-poker owners and operators, to raise money for his political campaign in election years, but kept the money for himself in non-election years.
Court testimony also revealed that Davis, who oversaw the administrative record-keeping of video-poker machines under Medford, had $18,000 in cash wrapped in aluminum foil in the basement ceiling of his Alexander home. FBI agents who raided Davis’ home found the cash, as well as personal records that detailed a bank deposit of $25,000 and golf-tournament records.
Penland and Medford were found guilty on 11 counts related to the illegal-gambling operation and each face a maximum of more than 100 years in prison. The men also face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Davis pleaded guilty to 11 counts and faces similar penalties.
Harrison pleaded guilty to one count in the case and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
At the time of their federal indictment in December 2007, Medford was 62 years old, Harrison was 66, Davis was 60 and Penland was 76.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor