Sig Luscher Brewery Brings Heritage-Style Lager to Frankfort

Beer is back in Bourbon City. A new pour house has taken up residence at the crossroads of the Bourbon Trail in Frankfort, KY.

Sig Luscher opened its doors this past December, at 221 Mero Street, across from the Dept. of Transportation. Now the bar itself may be new, but the name on the bottle, the establishment’s namesake, crafted beer in downtown Frankfort some 150 years ago.

“It’s is a heritage brewery,” co-owner Tim Luscher is fond of saying. His great-great-great grandfather, Sigmund Luscher, emigrated from Switzerland to Frankfort, and in 1866, opened operations in the former Capital Brewery, located on the grounds where the Transportation building currently sits. The brewery remained in operation until the founder’s death in 1891.

“Believe it or not, since then there has not been another brewery in Frankfort,” said Nathan Cryder, Sig Luscher’s CEO and co-owner.

In addition to his beer business, the elder Luscher had a tie to Frankfort’s burgeoning bourbon industry, as he sold yeast strains to Col. E.H. Taylor for his bourbon distillery. Col. Taylor’s operation was a precursor for the current Buffalo Trace Distillery.

In keeping with its history, the new Sig Luscher is a beer joint first and foremost. Unlike so many craft breweries these days, this one focuses on lagers exclusively, instead of the denser, hoppy-flavored IPAs.

The idea being to create a fresh, approachable beer, that exhibits a drinkability able to satisfy domestic aficionados, yet possesses a palate to challenge the connoisseurs in a crowd. It has fallen to brewmeister Dylan Greenwood, formerly with Falls City Brewing Co., to craft the recipe for this delicately balanced ‘lager of the common man.’

The flagship pour is a golden pilsner that is a cross between a German and Swiss style, referred to as a ‘Sig’ for short. If a light beer or American lager is in your wheelhouse, a Sig is the place to start. It’s clean and crisp, a little heavier than a Bud, Miller or Coors, and packing a tastier kick.

The other offering is the ’66 Wheated Lager, or Sig ’66, an amber beer, with a bit more hop flavor that finishes easy. It’s a lovely pour and sports 6.6 percent alcohol.

These two selections come in 12 or 23 ounce drafts. Both are served in vintage mugs from bygone days. They come frosted to the point that a thin sheen of ice forms on the surface of the draft.

Watch for seasonal brews or specialty pours on limited release. There were two recent traditional German offerings, the malty flavored Maibock (7.5 abv), and the Schwarzbier, a dark lager that drinks like a pilsner. Currently the Sig Sour is being showcased. It’s a Berlin specialty, known as a Berliner Weisse, a sour wheat beer that is served with a flavored syrup – balancing out the sour with some sweet.

For those not of the beer persuasion, no worries, wine, bourbon, locally roasted coffee, tea and soft drinks are available. If munchies catch your fancy, try a beer steamed frank with all the trimmings, a pretzel or a bagel stick, cooked fresh from Chef Ouita Michel’s Midway Bakery. Stop past later in the evening and often a food truck is parked out front for more substantial dining needs.

Venture inside the humble microbrewery, either by going up a switchback ramp, making it handicap accessible, or the steps to the front entrance. Both deposit one on an enclosed, climate controlled porch, that remained quite toasty even on a 12-degree evening this past winter.

The interior feels part ski chalet and a bit like a cabin, with its wood walls and ceiling. The taproom has seating at the bar for five, with a couple barrels serving as standing tables. Two televisions are available for watching games.

A dozen people in the taproom is snug, but the vaulted ceiling and porch area lend an airy quality. Seating for another 25 people is available in both the porch area and the brew house. A rear entrance off the taproom leads to a 5,000 square foot outdoor beer garden surrounding the property.

This modest indoor space can get wall-to-wall quick at Happy Hour, but with warmer climates the beer garden welcomes the overflow capacity. Helping to draw that crowd is the discounted 23 ounce drafts that come with a free hotdog during Happy Hour.

I must give a shout out to the owners for posting boilermaker pairings on the chalkboard above the taproom bar. A shot of E.H. Taylor with a Sig goes down mighty smooth.

“To be able to bring a forgotten piece of history back to Kentucky’s capital and soon to all of the Commonwealth is not only exciting, it’s something that feels like a responsibility one needs to treat with great care,” said Nathan Cryder, co-owner of Sig Luscher.

SIG LUSCHER | 221 Mero Street | Frankfort, KY | 502.209.9238

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Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Pushes Faux Unity and Threats

Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday in what was billed by the administration as a pivot toward unity for the president in the aftermath of his record-setting 35 day government shutdown. Don’t get too excited. Any conciliatory overtones were merely window dressing.

The sweeping rhetoric about working across party lines, not just for ending gridlock but to govern “as one nation” for the American people – might be pleasant to the untrained ear, but The Donald’s wicked tongue could not be held.

Teleprompter speeches are not Trump’s strong suit. He is a carnival barker at his core. A huckster who likes to sell his pitch to thundering applause before its noticed a swindle is underfoot. A further listen revealed the same nativist policies he continues to drive with fear to whip up a base that is willingly hoodwinked for their own isolationist pursuits.

The border wall and fictitious caravans of alien hordes comprised of drug trafficking-rapist-terrorists got full play, but no mention of the pain caused to American families and businesses by his shuttering of the government. Nor did he have the stones to mention what his intention would be in terms of closing the government again come Feb. 15 if no consensus was reached.

There was mention of infrastructure rebuilding, ending childhood cancer, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, protecting those with pre-existing conditions – but virtually no details were provided, nor were any legislative initiatives introduced.

In fact several of those utterances are laughable, as anyone who follows politics recognizes Trump and his Republicans have actively been working on the state and national level to strip away protections, like mandating coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

The night got off to a poor start when Trump failed to display the dignity and grace of congratulating Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her and the Democrats returning to power. Various presidents from either party who similarly took a beating like Trump did in the midterms, realized it was the will of the people, and if truly there was an interest by this White House to make a bipartisan turn toward governing, recognition would have been given.

Instead we were fed garbage about how if Trump wasn’t elected the country would be at war with North Korea. It was he alone who prevented this carnage. Now the fact that Kim Jong-un continues to not abide by the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear missile program is an inconvenient truth. But this president knows more than all the generals.

Some of the more than 100 women elected to Congress, who wore white to honor the women’s suffrage movement that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” declared Trump.

Please stop. Revenge and retribution are all this man does. He takes to Twitter against anyone who criticizes him and calls them an “enemy of the people.” Probably not the best sales pitch for a guy personally under investigation for potentially treasonous crimes.

There were plenty of lovely special guests introduced as the speech kept going for 80-plus minutes. The quote of the night was a threat to members of Congress and the judiciary.

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous, partisan investigations,” said Trump. “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”

Just maybe it’s finally dawning on this dunderhead how many of his boys have been indicted, plead guilty, and given evidence against him. An innocent person would welcome an oversight investigation to clear their name. Trump is petrified. He and several of his family members are looking good to prosecutors for collusion and obstruction surrounding election meddling and conspiring with a hostile foreign government.

The Pelosi Clapback

Speaker Pelosi provided the framing context for the evening’s festivities, as she delivered a devastating clap-back that instantly went viral across social media.

After Trump’s attempt at sincerity in delivering his line about rejecting revenge over cooperation, Pelosi stood, making sure to lock eyes with the president as he turned toward her, and extended her arms to give a pity-clap to the doomed and drowning Commander-in-Chief, with a knowing look that she was coming for this chump.

WATCH PELOSI CLAP-BACK

The following day Christine Pelosi, the Speaker’s daughter, posted the following on Twitter, “#WayBackWednesday – Oh yes that clap took me back to the teen years. She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work. But here’s a clap. #YouTriedIt.”

The speech in many ways was classic Trump. Instead of just being true to his identity and advocating for an authoritarian regime, he delivered this ham-fisted diatribe with the transparency of a pig wearing lipstick and a ball gown. Generally speaking, when this level of masquerade is required to get over on an audience it usually signals the end is near.

Hey Donald, welcome to Democratic control in the House of Representatives!

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Trump Capitulates to Democrats in Ending Government Shutdown

After five weeks of untold hardship weathered by federal employees and ancillary private businesses harmed by the record-long partial government shutdown, Donald Trump caved to the Democrat’s demand to reopen for business minus any border wall funding.

In the end Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, outmaneuvered the president, and forced Trump into accepting the same deal on the table before the shutdown began that failed to include the $5.7 billion earmarked for building a border wall.

“It’s sad,” Pelosi said, “that it’s taken this long to come to an obvious conclusion.”

Pelosi possessed a mandate not to compromise as Democrats were swept into power this past November in the midterm elections specifically to check Trump’s questionable initiatives.

The president underestimated Pelosi’s strategic high ground and the Democrat’s ability to stand united in opposition to funding a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which Trump insisted was crucial to combating an artificial immigration crisis in America.

Lost in all the hyperbole and rancor was Trump’s renege on the promise that Mexico would pay for his big beautiful wall. This is the epitome of a nonstarter to be trying to swindle taxpayer dollars, from Democrats no less, to fund this boondoggle.

Trump’s retreat on wall funding took a toll on his presidency, as it exposed his inability to perform as a dealmaker. First he failed under a unified Republican control of Congress and then with Democrats. This leaves his signature campaign promise unfulfilled. A gaping void the Trump faithful are not willing to overlook. Meanwhile Speaker Pelosi’s reputation as a master political tactician grew exponentially.

A perfect storm arose Jan. 25, forcing the novice president’s hand. As defections in Trump’s own party grew, his job approval numbers sagged and airport delays lengthened, aides informed Trump he had no foreseeable solution but to take the Democrat’s deal.

Rep. Pelosi attempting to explain to Trump why closing the government would be a foolish idea.

From a messaging standpoint Trump lost the shutdown battle before it began. After a televised meeting in December with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, there was no escaping Trump’s declaration that he would be “proud” to shut down the government.

Spin as the president might, no one bought it was anyone’s fault but Trump’s for the shutdown mess that directly impacted 800,000 federal workers. The White House had no plan for how to navigate this choppy water, and Trump again showed a shocking lack of empathy and discipline in handling his own manufactured disaster.

The mantra of “build that wall” was a punch line. A way for Trump to get his crowd going at rallies. “And who is going to pay for it” a rhetorical starter. Now it’s an albatross around the adminsitration’s neck.

Instead of simply agreeing to a border security package that utilized a combination of smart technology, drones, motion detectors, cameras and increased border patrol officers – Trump has made such a fuss about erecting some medieval wall he is boxed in by his base with no escape.

Complicating the optics on the shutdown was the administration being seen as out of touch with ordinary Americans. Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce, wondered aloud in a CNBC interview why federal workers were having to visit homeless shelters and food banks after missing two paychecks instead of just taking out a loan.

Trump’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Friday got off to a whiz-bang start as confidant Roger Stone was arrested in a pre-dawn FBI raid at his Florida home. He was charged with obstruction, false statements, and witness tampering as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.

Trump still found a way to make things worse by insisting he had not conceded after news outlets, including Fox and other right wing favorites, bashed the president for caving. With the wounds from this 35-day standoff still fresh Trump newly threatened another shutdown in three weeks if the boy king didn’t get his border wall.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter sent out a Tweet saying, “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”

“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” said Trump. “I’m not prepared to do that yet but if I have to I will. … I may do it.”

This catastrophe of a presidency begs the question, how is all that “winning” Trump promised working out for everyone in America? Tired of it yet? I’m not sure I can take much more.

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Covington Catholic Students Earn Extra Credit in Xenophobia

Nicholas Sandmann (left), standing before Nathan Phillips on National Mall in Washington, DC.

The recent controversy surrounding the behavior of students from Covington Catholic High School toward a group of Native Americans encountered on the National Mall in Washington, DC, has added another sad chapter to a long and distinguished history of intolerance fostered in the Bluegrass.

On January 18, 2019, Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, was on the Mall closing the Indigenous Peoples March with a prayer ceremony. Students from Covington Catholic, a private all-boys institution in Northern Kentucky, situated just across the river from Cincinnati, were visiting to participate in the anti-abortion March for Life. Afterward, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, these divergent groups crossed paths with contentious results.

In a video that went viral, a small group of Black Hebrew Israelites and the students began arguing. Heated rhetoric was exchanged. Phillips, who was in prayer at the time the groups began arguing, placed himself between the two sides, in an effort to defuse a volatile situation.

Inexplicably Nicholas Sandmann, a CovCath junior, sporting a bright red “Make America Great Again” hat, stood in the face of Phillips. Sandmann, leered at the former Vietnam Veteran, uncomfortably close, with an ignorant grin on his face, as Phillips calmly beat his drum and chanted a prayer.

Meanwhile a larger group of the students were seen openly mocking the Native Americans, hooting and jumping about, doing fake Indian dances, with one brainiac pulling his shirt off to incite the crowd. Some performed the “tomahawk chop,” a cheer reserved for sports fans.

It’s an act of disrespect that even high schoolers should recognize was wholly inappropriate to do in the face of a Native American elder who was praying. If they didn’t recognize it was a prayer they should have shut their mouths long enough till they did have a clue about what was taking place.

The look in the students’ eyes and the shitty smiles on their collective white privileged faces said it all.

The group of Black Hebrew Israelites.

No doubt the five adult Black Hebrew Israelites were baiting the high schoolers into a confrontation. It’s DC. That kind of stuff happens all the time. It took those Covington Catholic students to come along and take the bait to make the situation an incident.

Those students were in our nation’s capital, where groups come to visit from around the world. They represented their school, the city of Covington and the state of Kentucky. Why in God’s name were they allowed to engage in such an altercation, much less mock a Native American. The optics were just horrible.

Everyone walking the Mall has a camera. If anything happens it’s going up on social media. That the teachers and chaperons failed to move their students along before this episode escalated was a dereliction of duty, and put people at risk.

Once back in Kentucky, Sandmann, 17, released a carefully crafted statement that seemed to absolve himself of any guilt. This was followed by an interview on Today that showed Sandmann remained unrepentant, and that he felt that by squaring off, refusing to move and standing his ground before Phillips, motionless with that grin, he was helping to defuse the situation. In reality it caused the situation to worsen.

“I have read the statement from Nick Sandmann, the student who stared at me for a long time. He did not apologize, and I believe there are intentional falsehoods in his testimony,” said Phillips. “But I have faith that human beings can use a moment like this to find a way to gain understanding from one another.”

From the interview it appears Sandmann has a ways to go before he understands what he did, and fails to recognize how his behavior will likely linger on video to haunt him. He even refers to Phillips and fellow marchers as Native American protesters.

“I take great offense to that term, ‘protester,” Phillips said. “We were not protesting anything. In fact, we were the only group with a permit to be there and we were marching for solidarity and for being indigenous people. We were there in prayer. We wanted to make a better America.”

Having seen the full video, there remains nothing that excuses the abhorrent conduct displayed by these kids from Covington Catholic. They demonstrated a lack of class, respect and worse, no tolerance or interest in the cultural opportunity that was squandered by mocking what they were incapable of understanding.

It seems telling that of all people Donald Trump was quick to assert the innocence of these kids. Not like his past history isn’t littered with examples of racism, bigotry and misogyny. The MAGA hats, especially since Charlottesville, have become a symbol of the Confederacy and an item worn by supporters of white supremacy, the Alt-Right and White Power movements.

Locally Republican defenders, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Mr. Obstructionist, and Trump Mini-Me, Gov. Matt Bevin, chimed in as well on the possible rush to judgment about these students. Notice these three defenders are ardent supporters of exclusionary policies like The Wall, a Muslim ban, the Travel ban, voter suppression, family separation of asylum seekers, and let’s throw in some Birtherism for fun.

If I’m that Sandmann kid I would ask mommy and daddy to hire a better PR firm to camouflage my xenophobic behavior if Trump, McConnell and Bevin are the type of characters coming to defend me. We’ll know these Covington Catholic kids are in real trouble if Rudy Giuliani starts spouting gibberish on their behalf.

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Holiday Temptation Can Wreck the Best Health Habits

With the holiday season in full onslaught, calorie busting treats and cocktail-infused festivities temp at every turn. It’s tough sledding trying to calorie count or abstain from all the Christmas cookies and liquid cheer. Take care though, as any weight or workout program can quickly fall off-course with the slightest deviation from a normal routine.

I suffer frequent disruptions in my exercising due to scheduling conflicts, but really from Halloween to New Year’s Eve, it’s one long Hazmat situation fraught with alluring treats and plentiful binge television watching options.

Starting in January 2018, I had a sustained five-day a week workout program ongoing, and lost 18 pounds. I had a full-time job and a part-time gig on both weekend days. Doing the math on that, I was scheduled to work eight hours a day, seven days a week, with workouts squeezed in around early mornings and after work.

My weekend work was as a hospital security supervisor on 2nd shift, 3-11PM, at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington. With a background in law enforcement, I took this position because it was people oriented and physical. It got me out from behind a desk and put some extra bucks in my pocket.

I quickly learned it was not in my best interest to do cardio prior to going on-shift. I averaged 15,000 to 25,000 steps per shift. That equates to around a 10-mile jaunt over an eight-hour period. Once or twice I got overly ambitious and threw in say 45 minutes of mountain biking before a shift. It never ended well. My legs were gone five hours into the shift from all the walking and standing – up and down flights of steps, patient escorts, patrol tours – you walk, a lot.

Ultimately the physical and mental grind of working seven days a week became too disruptive. I didn’t have the energy to write. I wasn’t pleasant to be around because of the lack of free time and I wasn’t accessible to my family.

There was no time to reset my brain. Friday blurred into Monday, into Friday, into Monday – again and again, for six months. Given an opportunity to jump off-schedule for any reason became frequent, until it wasn’t possible to screw it back on tight again in terms of workouts.

What I came to realize was the determination required to keep my work schedule and exercise program on course stretched me too thin. Adding to this pressure cooker was my father encountering some serious health issues requiring a lengthy stay in a hospital and rehab facility. Exercise became a luxury I couldn’t afford.

My advice to tempted holiday revelers and football bowl game watchers is to indulge with care. If a workout program gets paused, don’t try to re-install your full regimen after being off. That puts a lot of mental pressure on a person watching holiday fun erupt all around. It can be debilitating when one knows a heavy workout awaits the first day back. It can cause a one week layoff to stretch into months.

A better idea is to drop expectations and phase a workout program back into full strength. Start again with one day a week, and incrementally add back in each exercise day. There’s no rush. Better to keep some exercise going than trying to do too much. Otherwise this can lead to not finishing all of a workout one day, and attempting to tack the leftover onto the following day’s slate as a make up. Just let the guilt go and move on.

Another method I find helpful when veering off-course is to allow every aspect of a workout program to fall to the wayside, leave one. Keep a single element onboard and regular, so this little anchor is there to pull one’s self back online when the indulgence fades. It could be doing crunches while binge-watching Christmas movies and bowl games; stretching with your morning coffee; push-ups before bed; or hitting the heavy bag after work.

The point being instead of pressuring one’s self to maintain a full workout regimen as all around are playing, compromise and give yourself a break. Keep one piece of a program in place. That can prove successful in returning one to their normal workout schedule faster after a break has occurred. Again, phase back in the intensity and number of exercise days per week to avoid injury.

Technology can play a helpful role as the carrot on the stick to get moving again. My apple watch and I grew close this past year.

The concept of “Closing My Rings” became a daily mantra. On Apple’s activity app it breaks the day down into three goals that are represented by colored rings: Red for Move; Green for Exercise; and Blue for Standing. This leads to frequent ganders at my watch to see progress achieved, as each colored ring begins to close as one inches closer to reaching the completion of each daily goal.

Helping to incentivize these endeavors was the Go365 companion app to the Anthem Healthy Living Pledge that was part of my health insurance. Points are earned for an array of exercise and dietary pursuits, including preventative medical appointments and giving blood. Accumulated points take members past reward levels going upward from Bronze, to Silver, then Gold and finally Platinum.

Go365 paired with my Apple watch to keep activity points flowing into my account daily. Points can then be turned into money to purchase exercise clothes, smart watches or gift cards to Target and other popular stores.

Admittedly, I wasn’t successful in getting my full workout program back online in 2018. Instead I grabbed hold of the goals on my watch, and angled to Close My Rings daily. That was the small piece of my former program that gave me a handhold to remain in the healthy living orbit until my life stabilized enough to get back to where I desired to be.

A break from exercising can be far harder to steer back on track than imagined. In my case the time arrived to resign from the part-time gig I had and reclaim my necessary weekend relaxation. Rest makes all the difference.

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Blue Wave Election Lifts Democrats to Re-Take the House

Voters erected a blue roadblock across Pennsylvania Avenue on Nov. 6, as Democrats swept to victory from coast-to-coast in record numbers, wresting control from Republicans of the House of Representatives.

Two years of an avalanche presidency was enough for the American people. The lies, mismanagement, race baiting, and Russian collusion wore people out. For four years not a day passed without a national debate raging over the most recent jackass maneuver Trump perpetrated. It wears a country out, so a check was placed on his questionable decision making.

Counter to advertising, Trump is not the sharpest negotiator in the swamp of Washington. It’s doubtful he recognized how difficult his political future would soon become. With Republicans no longer holding unified control a raw animosity waited to greet Trump.

Complicating matters for this misogynist White House was the historic number of women elected this midterm – 127 in total, 25 in the Senate and 102 in the House. This represents a 23.7 percent share of the total seats in the 116th U.S. Congress, up from 20.6.

These talented females enthusiastically took on Trump symbolically with each sitting Republican faced. Exit polling showed women made up 52 percent of the overall electorate, and they went Democratic. This feels like a natural progression of the manifestation of energy generated from the #MeToo movement and a backlash against the numerous examples of abuse suffered by women at the hands of male staff members in the Trump administration.

Several elections, especially in California, were too close to call on election night. Recounts by hand in some districts dragged on for weeks, but the Blue Wave kept climbing to unexpected heights.

Democrats needed 23 seats to re-take the House. On average the net gain for opposition parties in midterms was 29. The Dems won 40. They flipped 29 Republican incumbents and picked up 14 open seats. The GOP only found three open seats to take off the board. An eery takeaway for the president and any Republican up for election next year was how many losing GOP incumbents were in districts that voted heavily for Trump.

In the last weeks of the campaign The Donald brazenly took the reins from the Republican National Committee and its sitting members, against any reasonable political advise, and publicly made the case that Tuesday’s vote was a referendum on him.

Some 113 million Americans, 49 percent of eligible voters, indicated the president had earned a questionable grade by firing droves of Republican incumbents in the People’s Chamber.

True several high-profile Democratic Senate candidates did lose races, but the margin of control remains slim, 53-47, with VP Mike Pence sitting on the shelf in his elf hat, golden hammer at the waiting to break any tie votes.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), quickly solidified her power base, in preparing to ascend to the Speakership with a familiar agility. Ms. Pelosi walked in like a boss, standing tall in her role representing the people’s will. I get the feeling Trump hasn’t been told “NO” a lot. Hearing it from Pelosi should be exquisitely painful.

As the number of arrests of Trump loyalists pile up, and it becomes more obvious how neglectful Republicans were of their oversight authority, the faster subpoenas will fly from Democratic committee chairs to haul these suspects before Congress, where most have already lied once.

Tuesday’s election signaled the end of Trump’s crack smoke ideas getting run up the flag pole without pushback. The president might want to check his fearmongering. Nancy don’t play. She done thrown away the GOP’s cowardly rubber stamp.

The resistance has arrived.

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Fugitive Kentucky Social Security Lawyer Brought to Justice

Eric Conn being arrested in Honduras after six months on the run.

Ever contemplated absconding with obscene amounts of ill-gotten cash? It’s in the news frequently and plenty of movie plots glorify the notion. From pyramid schemes that come crashing down, to embezzling proceeds from charities or simply cooking the books at the local tire joint. As the crime becomes evident and the perpetrator identified, he or she vanishes, a fugitive from justice, off in search of a new life, with a new identity using the stolen proceeds to pave the way.

It sounds exotic, until the reality crystallizes that there is no returning home, and being a fugitive from the law isn’t the glamorous existence one imagines. Think being famous is uncomfortable because of all the attention. Try landing on a Most Wanted list, with a cash reward offered for information leading to your apprehension. It’s a life spent looking over both shoulders to see if anyone recognized you.

A high-profile case such as this played out in grand fashion in Kentucky recently. Eric Conn, once one of the top Social Security disability lawyers in the nation, was implicated in defrauding the Social Security Administration and became a fugitive from justice before being caught six months later south of the U.S. border. In a dramatic fall from grace, Conn’s crimes earned him 27 years behind bars.

The defendant, who represented thousands of Eastern Kentucky residents in claims for lifetime federal disability benefits, began his multi-million dollar scheme in 2004 and continued profiting through 2017.

Conn’s distinctive billboards dot the tree-covered hills of eastern Kentucky.

He was initially arrested on April 4, 2016. U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves released him on $1.25 million bail and placed him on home incarceration. His whereabouts were to be tracked by the U.S. Probation Office (USPO) via a GPS ankle monitoring device.

On March 24, 2017, Conn waived the two-count felony indictment and pled guilty to fabricating evidence provided by medical professionals who signed off on disability claims without doing actual examinations in exchange for unlawful cash gratuities. Additionally, the defendant paid more than $600,000 in bribes to David Black Daugherty, a Social Security judge, between 2004 and 2011, to rubber-stamp some 3,149 cases.

The scheme potentially obligated Social Security to pay more than $600 million over the life of the beneficiaries. Prior to the fraud being discovered, the agency paid out $72.5 million in claims to Conn clients.

One of the doctors who handled many of Conn’s cases died before the scheme came to light. Alfred Bradley Adkins, a Pikeville psychologist who administered fraudulent mental exams, was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 25 years. Daugherty pled guilty and received four-years.

While Conn spoke multiple languages, was documented crossing the border some 140 times over 10 years and told at least six people he would flee the country rather than go to jail, Judge Reeves again released the defendant to home detention. Conn’s sentencing was to take place in July 14, 2017, but as part of his plea agreement he was compelled to testify in the Adkins’ trial on June 5, 2017.

These were court appearances Conn never made.

After Conn fled Kentucky he became an awful popular fellow.

Instead Unindicted Co-Conspirator A, along with Curtis Lee Wyatt, a resident of Raccoon, Kentucky, who was an employee of Conn’s law firm, conspired with other person(s), to aid Conn in escaping on June 2.

Furthering that conspiracy, Wyatt opened a bank account controlled by Unindicted Co-Conspirator A, where money was deposited and transferred outside the United States for the defendant to later access.

At Conn’s direction, Wyatt traveled to Nogales, Arizona, on April 23, 2017, to assess the prospects of being able to cross into Mexico while dodging security measures. The following day another route was tested. This time Wyatt crossed into Mexico through the pedestrian checkpoint in Columbus, New Mexico.

Once back in Kentucky, with funds provided by Conn, Wyatt purchased a white 2002 Dodge Ram pickup truck in Somerset, Kentucky, on May 10, 2017. The seller was instructed to register the vehicle at an address in Kalispell, Montana, under the name of Disability Services, LLC, a company associated with Conn purportedly headquartered in East Helena, Montana.

The Statue of Liberty replica outside Conn’s office.

With permission from the probation office, Conn traveled on June 1, 2017, from his residence in Pikeville, Kentucky, 140 miles west to Lexington in preparation to testify in the Adkins trial. Conn spent the night in a Lexington hotel and remained there through the evening hours of June 2, with the trial set to begin on June 5.

That first night in Lexington Wyatt delivered the white pickup truck to Conn and provided him the keys. The following night, June 2, around 8PM, Conn severed the court-ordered monitoring device from his ankle, concealing it inside a metallic pouch, or Faraday bag, designed to suppress electronic signals and discarded it on the side of a highway.

Over the next several days the defendant disappeared into the wind, making his way to New Mexico, abandoning the vehicle near the border.

After scouring bank accounts, emails and social media posts believed to be from Conn, conducting dozens of interviews, and searching his mother’s house, the hunt led to a Walmart parking lot in Columbus, New Mexico, and finally to a Pizza Hut in Honduras.

Conn, looking frail and wearing a blue polo shirt with close-cropped reddish-gray hair, was captured by a SWAT team on December 5, 2017, as he left the restaurant in the northern coastal city of La Ceiba, and was extradited to Kentucky.

While nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies searched for the fugitive, he was sentenced in absentia last summer, on July 17, to a 12-year prison term, the maximum possible on his original charges.

Conn’s failed effort to allude punishment for his initial crimes did not win him favor with prosecutors. A plea agreement was signed on June 4, 2018, and judgment rendered on September 13, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to escape and conspiracy to retaliate against a witness. He was given 5 years on each charge, 15 total years, to run consecutively.

Adding this new punishment to his existing 12 year term places the 58-year old former disability kingpin behind bars for 27 years, likely the remainder of his natural life.

Who doesn’t need a replica of the Lincoln Memorial in their office parking lot?

This disheveled version of Conn seen at his arrest and subsequently in court appearances is not the one residents of eastern Kentucky, one of the poorest regions in the United States, are accustomed to seeing. Known as Mr. Social Security f0r his flamboyant TV commercials, outsized brilliant yellow billboards and numerous other eccentric marketing practices, Conn was a lawyer with swagger.

From an office that began in a trailer, Conn built a disability empire in the mountains of Floyd County. The Social Security Administration paid his Stanville, Kentucky firm $23 million in fees between 2005 and 2015. With that cash came a flamboyance.

There were office expansions, including replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial installed. He wore Armani suits, drove a Rolls Royce, flew to exotic destinations around the globe and was the target of beautiful women. All of it an illusion built upon a fraudulent scheme that crumbled into ruin.

As for those who were fraudulently awarded Social Security benefits, many have lost this income. Some 1,787 former Conn clients were notified by the Social Security Administration they must face re-determination hearings to see if their benefits are legitimate.

Ultimately only about 53 percent of those who went through the hearings kept their awards. Those denied benefits can appeal in federal court. The Social Security Administration has announced an additional 1,965 of Conn’s clients will face eligibility hearings going forward.

“Eric Conn preyed upon the sick and vulnerable for his personal gain,” said Amy S. Hess, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky. “Rather than face the consequences of his crimes, he chose to flee and attempted to hide from those he had betrayed.”

With two separate sentences imposed, Conn has reached the end of the line for a life as a free man. There is nowhere left to run from 27 years behind a prison wall.

 

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