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Man, 65, pleads guilty in courthouse dispute



A 65-year-old Little Cowan man has pleaded guilty to harassment and menacing charges stemming from an altercation last month with Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward.

Jack Cornett, of 310 Highway 2035, was arrested at his home March 2 after being accused of shoving Ward and using loud and abusive language in Ward’s office at the Letcher County Courthouse earlier that day.

Letcher District Judge Kevin R. Mullins accepted the plea deal, in which Cornett was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail for each of the harassment and menacing charges with 17 days credit for serving home incarceration. The remainder of the sentence is to be probated and served unsupervised.

As part of the plea deal, Cornett is to not have any contact or communication with Ward. Cornett also agreed not to visit the county judge’s office or be inside the courthouse except for official business.

Cornett said this week that while he doesn’t believe he was doing anything except “standing up for my rights as a citizen,” he agreed to the guilty plea in order the keep the matter from hanging over his head.

“I couldn’t sleep or eat,” Cornett, a Vietnam War veteran, said Tuesday morning. “I never was much of criminal. I just wanted to get it out of my mind.”

Cornett’s wife, Carolyn Cornett, said at the time of the incident that the altercation took place after Jack Cornett was in the county judge’s suite of offices to pay his garbage bill and decided to try to talk to Ward about a bridge the couple has been asking the county to build their home.

“All he (Cornett) wanted to do was talk to him about a bridge, but he wouldn’t give him the chance,” she said at the time, adding that her husband had only “bumped bellies” with Ward. “It burns me up.”



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