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Former official admits guilt in theft case

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By John Whitlock

The former Owen County deputy judge-executive charged in connection with theft of public money has changed her plea from not guilty to guilty.

Renaee Gaines admitted her guilt in Owen County Circuit Court Tuesday before Owen County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bates.

Gaines was charged with two counts of theft, complicity to theft of services and official misconduct in connection with the misappropriation of public money.

Earlier this month, a motion to move the trial of her former co-defendants, Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion and Owen County Treasurer Gayla Lewis, was rejected by Bates.

O’Banion is charged with theft, theft of services and official misconduct and Lewis is charged with complicity to theft and two charges of official misconduct.

O’Banion and Lewis were present in the courtroom.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Commonwealth Attorney James Crawford said “absolutely no agreements” or deals had been made to lure Gaines into changing her plea.

“There were no promises made,” Crawford told Bates.

Although no guarantees were made, Crawford said Gaines could become a witness for the prosecution.

“If she wants to come in here (during the O’Banion and Lewis trial) and be truthful, it will be taken into consideration,” Crawford said.

While answering questions from Bates about changing her plea, Gaines admitted her guilt and agreed to testify if she is called.

As the prosecutor, Crawford could call to have the charges against Gaines reduced or ask Bates for leniency in imposing a sentence.

Bates accepted Gaines’ change of plea and set her sentencing for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 27.

O’Banion and Lewis are expected to go to trial Jan. 13.

Following the hearing, Crawford declined to comment on the plea change or its potential impact on the O’Banion/Lewis trial.

“I would like to but I can’t with the other trial pending,” Crawford said.