County's Democratic election commissioner & 7 other Dems arrested & indicted
- From: "Jack Pine Savage" <me@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 16:34:08 -0500
Clay County officials indicted, 8 arrested
By Bill Estep - bestep@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Picked candidates for election
Changed votes at the voting machine
Top public officials in Clay County schemed to buy votes in several elections so they could hold on to power and enrich themselves and others, a federal grand jury has charged.
| - Cletus Maricle, a Kentucky Circuit Court Judge, in an undated file photo supplied by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
| - William E. Stivers, an election officer in Clay County. Several prominent officials in Clay County schemed to buy votes in the May 2004 primary election, a federal grand jury has alleged. Photo provided by the Laurel County Detention Center
| - Paul E. Bishop of Manchester, Ky. Several prominent officials in Clay County schemed to buy votes in the May 2004 primary election, a federal grand jury has alleged. Photo provided by the Laurel County Detention Center
| - Wayne Jones, chairman of the Clay County Democratic Party. Several prominent officials in Clay County schemed to buy votes in the May 2004 primary election, a federal grand jury has alleged. Photo provided by the Laurel County Detention Center
| - Clay County school superintendent Doug Adams. Several prominent officials in Clay County schemed to buy votes in the May 2004 primary election, a federal grand jury has alleged. Photo provided by the Laurel County Detention Center
Clay County Clerk Freddy Thompson. Several prominent officials in Clay County schemed to buy votes in the May 2004 primary election, a federal grand jury has alleged. Manchester Enterprise
Freddy Thompson is running for County Clerk against Jennings White who says he (White) was shot at in one of several election-related shootings in Clay County, Manchester, KY, Tuesday, May 21, 2002.
Download the indictment: http://media.kentucky.com/smedia/2009/03/19/17/clayindict.source.prod_affiliate.79.pdf
Those indicted include R. Cletus Maricle, 65, who was a circuit judge from 1991 through July 2007 and is now a senior judge; schools Superintendent Douglas C. Adams, 57, who has held the office since 1999; County Clerk Freddy W. Thompson, 45, who won election in 2002; Charles Wayne Jones, 69, the county's Democratic election commissioner; and election officer William E. Stivers, 56.
The five allegedly used the county election board as a tool to corrupt elections between March 2002 and July 2007, according to an indictment released Thursday after FBI agents, state police and other officers swept through the county to arrest them.
Three others were indicted with them: Paul E. Bishop, 60, an election officer; William B. Morris, 66; and Debra L. Morris, 49, who owns a local sanitation business.
All eight are charged with racketeering, a law prosecutors use to combat organized crime. All except Adams and Bishop also face at least one other charge of conspiring to buy votes; some face additional charges, including mail fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice.
For instance, Maricle, long the county's top jurist, and Stivers allegedly told a witness to lie to the grand jury.
Thompson sent false election reports through the mail and lied to a grand jury, the indictment charged, and Jones and Stivers allegedly tried to extort $1,000 from a Manchester City Council candidate in 2004, presumably in return for buying votes for the person, who was not named.
The eight could each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The indictment is the latest development in a federal investigation that has riddled the county's traditional power structure in recent years. Several once-prominent local officials have gone to prison on charges of extortion, protecting a drug dealer, arson and money laundering.
Residents had been expecting more arrests because officials convicted earlier have cooperated with authorities, and because dozens of people have been interviewed by FBI agents or called before grand juries.
There had been a lull of about a year since the last arrests, however, so the new charges - and the prominence of those arrested - were a surprise.
"It's been so long coming that people are in shock this morning," Doug Abner, a minister who has worked to combat drug abuse in the county, said Thursday.
The corruption investigation continues, raising the potential for more charges.
The new indictment says Maricle and Adams were considered "political bosses" in the county and used their influence to appoint corrupt members to the county election board.
Schools superintendents often head the largest employer in rural counties, giving them considerable influence.
Helping people vote
This is how the alleged scheme worked, the indictment said: Maricle and Adams recruited candidates to run for local offices; Thompson provided large sums of money to buy votes; Jones instructed other election officers how to buy votes at polling places; Stivers helped cast corrupt votes, and Bishop and the Morrises bought votes for the candidates that Maricle and Adams had recruited.
Those charged allegedly bought votes in the primary and general elections in 2004 and 2006. Adams was not charged with being part of the scheme to steal the 2006 elections.
The indictment did not list the candidates who allegedly benefited from vote buying, nor did it describe the price of a vote or how much money the conspirators allegedly spent to influence elections.
In 2002, however, a separate group of conspirators headed by Thompson's opponent pooled $490,000 to buy votes in the poor county, according to a document in an earlier fraud case.
The indictment said that in 2006, candidates for office put up money used to buy votes for them. Maricle and Stivers compiled a list of people who would sell their votes, and others in the scheme made arrangements to pay them, the indictment said.
Those involved in the scheme had a system to identify people who had sold their votes when they came to the polls, the indictment said.
For instance, people were given a ticket or told about a signal to use so that election workers in on the scheme would know to help them cast their vote for the right candidates, the indictment said.
In some cases, election officers went into the voting booth with people to record the corrupt vote, it said, and destroyed voter assistance forms so there wouldn't be an accurate record of how many people they had helped.
Drugs and arson
In 2006, the conspirators allegedly took advantage of residents' unfamiliarity with new voting machines to steal votes.
The machines had a "vote" button that allowed people to review their choices, and a "cast ballot" button to actually record the choices.
Corrupt election officers allegedly misled people to think they had cast a ballot after pushing "vote," then went into the booth and changed their choices.
Charles "Dobber" Weaver, a former Manchester fire chief and election officer, pleaded guilty earlier to switching votes in that manner.
Thompson and Jones told Weaver and an unnamed election officer to steal votes that way, the indictment said.
Others convicted earlier in the federal investigation include longtime Manchester Mayor Daugh K. White and his son D. Kennon White, who was city manager for a time; Todd Roberts, who was assistant Manchester police chief for years; Vernon Hacker, a city council member and 911 director; city council member Darnell Hipsher; and Jennings White, a two-term county clerk whom Thompson defeated in a 2002 race in which both claimed they had been shot at.
Jennings White pleaded guilty to laundering money for a drug dealer. Daugh White, Roberts and Hacker admitted that, among other things, they got a drug dealer to burn down a vacant house so a landowner would sell the lot to the city, while Kennon White admitted embezzling money from a city contractor.
Some county residents haven't been happy with the publicity generated by a string of local officials being jailed, but Abner, the minister, said most welcome the investigation as a chance to continue cleaning up the county.
"I think the vast majority of people think this is necessary, and it's even welcome," he said. "This is a deep cleansing."
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