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Eastern Kentucky Rep. Keith Hall Indicted on Bribery Charges

Update 3:47 p.m.: More Details

State Rep. Keith Hall and a former state mine inspector have been indicted on federal bribery charges, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Hall, who represents a part of Pike County in Eastern Kentucky, is a prominent Democratic legislator and coal mine operator. Federal prosecutors allege that he paid mine inspector Kelly Shortridge $46,000 between 2006 and 2011 to ignore violations at a Pikeville mine Hall owned, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's office.

Hall has served in the state House since 2001, but lost the Democratic primary for his seat earlier this year.

Prosecutors allege Hall and Shortridge funneled bribes through a "shell company," DKJ Consulting, that was established in Shortridge's wife's name with her as the only signatory on the account, the news release said.

Shortridge is also accused of attempting to extort Hall; he allegedly told Hall that if he didn't pay him owed money he'd get another inspector to cite Hall's mine for "serious violations."

The state Public Protection Cabinet investigated the extortion claim in 2012. It appears the investigation launched because Hall alleged extortion by Shortridge, but then Hall refused to be interviewed for the investigation and the cabinet's inspector general concluded there wasn't enough evidence that any laws were violated.

From the report:
HALL contacted [Billy RATLIFF, Director of the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement] by telephone in late November 2012. During that conversation, HALL alleged that SHORTRIDGE told HALL‟s business partner, [Keith] THACKER, “[Y]ou need to tell Keith (HALL) he needs to pay me that money he owes me…If he doesn‟t then I‟ll go ahead and write this non-compliance and a CO may be next.” HALL declined to be interviewed by OIGSS. Thus, his alleged statement to RATLIFF, as recounted in paragraph 10, above, cannot be verified.
The report also mentions concerns that Shortridge and Hall had developed an inappropriately close relationship for a mine permit-holder and regulator. Concerns about the two men led then-Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Carl Campbell to begin rotating inspectors among mine sites.

Shortridge was also indicted on charges of lying to the FBI.

Hall and Shortridge could not be reached for comment.

Earlier: State Rep. Keith Hall and a former state mine inspector have been indicted on federal bribery charges, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reports:
The grand jury in London, Kentucky, named Democratic state Rep. Keith Hall of Phelps and former state mine reclamation inspector Kelly Shortridge in an alleged scheme to ensure Hall's mines passed inspection. Grand jurors said Hall and Shortridge set up a shell company, DKJ Consulting. Prosecutors say Hall then used a company he owned, S&K Properties, to funnel money to Shortridge.
We'll have more information as it becomes available.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.