By ROGER ALFORD, The Associated Press
SOMERSET, Ken. -- A former Kentucky sheriff's deputy was sentenced Monday to life
in prison for helping plot the assassination of his chief political
rival -- an incumbent sheriff killed by a sniper at a campaign rally.
Jeff Morris won't be eligible for parole for at least 25 years in a plea
bargain that spared him the possibility of the death penalty. He
pleaded guilty to complicity to murder Sheriff Sam Catron to improve his
chances of winning election.
"I am sorry that it went as far as it did," Morris said in court,
turning to Catron's family. "I hope and pray to God that you can forgive
me sometime in your heart."
Catron was shot minutes after delivering a re-election speech April 13,
2002, at a volunteer fire department in Shopville. He was struck in the
head by a single bullet fired from a nearby hillside.
As part of Morris' plea, he agreed to testify against a remaining
defendant, Kenneth White, a campaign donor to Morris who allegedly was
angered by the longtime sheriff's anti-drug efforts.
A third defendant,
the gunman, pleaded guilty in March to murder and also received a life
White faces trial Nov. 3 on a murder charge, and prosecutors are seeking
the death penalty.
Morris told Pulaski County Judge Paul Braden last month that White came
up with the plan to kill the sheriff. He said he went along with it
because he feared White might harm his family.
Morris also admitted giving Danny Shelley, the triggerman, his
motorcycle as a getaway vehicle.