[JURIST] A judge in Kentucky [JURIST news archive] Thursday dismissed with prejudice charges against Gov. Ernie Fletcher [official website] in the wake of a settlement agreement, meaning that prosecutors are barred from continuing the criminal case against Fletcher in connection with alleged corrupt hiring practices. Fletcher pleaded not guilty in June to charges [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] of criminal conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination stemming from an investigation into the governor's hiring practices [timeline]. Under the agreement, four of Fletcher's appointees must resign, and though the judge wrote that the evidence weighs strongly against Fletcher's innocence, he will not be required to admit wrongdoing. Last year, Fletcher issued a blanket pardon protecting all administration officials from criminal prosecution arising out of the hiring scandal.
The indictment alleged that Fletcher and other members of his administration based hiring decisions on past political affiliations and financial contributions of government job candidates, rather than basing hiring practices on merit as required by state law. Earlier in August, the judge ruled that Fletcher was immune from prosecution while in office [JURIST report]. AP has more.