Otis Hensley Jailed for Joke
Posted by shadmia on August 26, 2008
Otis Bullman Hensley Jr, 52, a two-time gubernatorial candidate (2003 and 2007) in Kentucky is now a free man after spending three days in jail. He had been arrested in Harlan, Ky. on a charge of first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor under the age of 16, a Class B felony that can carry a sentence of 10 years to 20 years. According to Hensley it was all a misunderstanding stemming from a joke.
Hensley’s problems began when he went to the local grocery store to buy ground beef. There he encountered two young girls aged 11 and 13 who were with their aunt. He offered the aunt a fattening hog for the two girls:
“The one girl turned around and looked at me and smiled,” Hensley said. “I said ‘Ma’am, do you want to trade them girls for a good fattening hog?’ and then I went on into the meat department. That was all that was said.” Hensley said. “I meant it as a joke. I’ve said it a million times. Most people get a kick out of it.”
However the girls’ aunt did not think it was funny. She became very upset and went to inform the girls’ father about what was said and he also was also not pleased. Realizing that they were genuinely angry Hensley said he followed the family out of the store and then to the courthouse trying to apologize.
The father of the two sisters contacted the county attorney about the incident, claiming the comment was intended to entice the children into illegal sexual activity. The Harlan County Sheriff’s Office arrested Hensley that same evening. He was sent to the Harlan County Detention Center on a $15,000 cash bond.
“Jay Leno makes jokes every night and makes millions,” Hensley said in his thick Appalachian accent. “I make one joke and go to jail.”
Appalachian scholar Loyal Jones said the jest Hensley made has been around for generations and actually is intended as a compliment.
“I’ve heard many variations of that,” said Jones, retired director of Berea College’s Appalachian Center. “You might hear ‘That’s a good looking boy; I’d trade you a pocket knife for him’ … Political correctness has ruined country humor.”
In Kentucky, citizens can obtain arrest warrants simply by filing a complaint with local prosecutors. Defense attorney Karen Davenport said no investigation is necessary for police to make an arrest when the charge involves an alleged sexual offense. In the Hensley case, Davenport said, the arrest was unwarranted because he had done nothing criminal.
In court, the girls’ father accepted an apology from Hensley and shook hands with him. Prosecutor J.D. Smith asked the judge to dismiss the charge, saying both sides want to put the matter behind them.
While running for governor of Kentucky, Hensely became well known for the large bull he had hauled around the state as a prop, with the message that he’ll “Get the Bull Out of Frankfort.” He was a long shot candidate for the post and garnered only 3.3% of the vote in 2003 and even less in 2007.