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Ethington’s attorney: There is deal in works

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Co-defendant, partner Ledford has passed

By Lisa King

Donnie Ethington, facing hundreds of criminal counts for how he managed Ethington Auto, could see his case resolved today.

Ethington, 71, of Shelbyville, is due in Shelby County District for a pretrial hearing, but the case may never see trial.

 “There is an offer on the table,” said William Stewart, Ethington’s attorney.

Ethington and William Ledford, 83, were charged last year with 169 counts for failure to process paperwork properly on the sale of autos. But Ethington will be appearing in court today without his longtime business partner, because Ledford died Oct. 19.

“All charges against Mr. Ledford have been dismissed,” Stewart said.

All of the charges against Ethington – and those against Ledford, which were identical to Ethington’s – are misdemeanors except for one charge, which involved selling or receiving a car with a removed or altered VIN number, which is a felony.

But that charge has been dismissed, Stewart said.

A date for a jury trial had been set for Nov. 16, but Stewart said there is a strong possibility the case will not make it to that stage.

“I don’t want to jump the gun, but we’re hoping we will have it resolved on Friday,” Stewart said.

Henry County Attorney Jenny Harrod, who has been appointed special prosecutor in the case, was not available for comment about the matter, because of a busy court docket.

Ethington Auto has managed to remain open and in business throughout the long, drawn out and complicated year-and-half-long court process that has involved appointing both a special judge and prosecutor for the case and having its car dealership license revoked.

In July 2011, the state attorney general’s office appointed Harrod to prosecute the case for KSP, something that was done because the case had a large jurisdiction, KSP Det. Kevin Calhoon said.

Special Judge Matthew Eckert, formerly of Jefferson County, was also appointed to preside over the case because Shelby’s district judges had recused themselves because they know Ethington personally.

The charges were brought in April 2011, when Kentucky State Police converged on the car lot that Ethington has operated at 1744 Midland Trail for decades, armed with a search warrant, and seized boxes of records, computers and other items, including a vehicle.

Sam Carl, co-counsel for Ethington, said that although the charges were numerous, because of being duplicated to apply to both Ethington and Ledford, they involved only about 12 customers.

Then the case took an even more complicated twist in December, when the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Commission filed charges against the dealership after it came to the commission’s attention that Ethington Auto was under investigation by KSP.

It took the commission until the following spring to make a decision on the matter, and in April, 2012, it ordered Ethington Auto to close its doors by April 22.

However, Ethington appealed that decision, and after that, Franklin Circuit Court Thomas Wingate consented to permit the dealership to remain open for the remainder of the appeal process.

Trevor Earl, attorney for the MVC, said the judge has not yet made a decision on the appeal.