Vote-buying restitution sought

Clay magistrate indicted in growing vote-buying scandal

bestep@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2009 

Federal prosecutors want to collect at least $3.4 million from several prominent Clay County residents who allegedly profited from a vote-buying scheme, according to a new indictment in the case.

The indictment, released Friday, also added another public official to those charged in the alleged conspiracy: Magistrate Stanley Bowling, who owns an excavating company and has done business with Manchester and Clay County.

Bowling handed out money to buy votes for others, and to benefit himself politically and personally, and exerted influence over choosing precinct officers who played key roles in the vote fraud, the indictment said.

Bowling, who was elected magistrate in 2002, was arrested Friday and will be arraigned Monday.

The indictment is the latest development in a federal investigation that has shaken the county's longtime power structure.

More than a dozen elected officials or public employees have been convicted or charged in the investigation. Others have been mentioned in vote-buying allegations, but not charged.

Those charged with Bowling in the latest phase of the case are former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; Douglas Adams, who recently retired as school superintendent; county Clerk Freddy Thompson; Charles Wayne Jones, the county's Democratic election commissioner; William Stivers, who has been an election officer; and Bart Morris and his wife, Debra, who own a waste-hauling company that does business with the city. They have pleaded not guilty.

The eight allegedly used the county board of elections as a vehicle to rig elections by buying and stealing votes from 2002 to 2007.

The goal was to gain and hold power so they could enrich themselves and associates, the indictment charges.

They are charged with racketeering, a charge that has been used against organized-crime figures.

The new indictment added an allegation that they conspired to launder money used in the vote-buying scheme. It did not describe the source of that money, however, and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office was not available for comment.

The government's effort to collect millions of dollars from the defendants also was new in Friday's indictment. Prosecutors seek $3,472,847.38, which represents "the total of the interests acquired and the gross proceeds obtained" through illegal acts by those involved in conspiracy, according to the indictment.

Defense attorneys had had little time to review the indictment Friday and said it wasn't clear what that figure was based on, such as salaries, contracts or other alleged benefits.

The indictment also said that $1,513,512.36 was the amount involved in the alleged money laundering.

The government can move to seize money used to commit a crime.

The indictment did not say whether the $1.5 million figure was part of the larger $3.4 million the government plans to seek if those charged in the case are convicted.

But two attorneys involved in the case said it appears that the amounts are separate and that the government plans to seek a total of nearly $5 million.

David Hoskins, an attorney who represents Maricle, said that the earlier charges against the former circuit judge were a stretch, and that the new ones are as well. "We'll continue to maintain complete innocence and fight it vigorously," Hoskins said of the indictment.

Paul Bishop, a former election officer initially charged in the case, has pleaded guilty.

Bowling was mentioned in an earlier phase of the case as being a party to a kickback scheme but he wasn't charged then.

However, former Manchester Mayor Daugh White and his son, D. Kennon White, who was city manager under his father, did plead guilty in that case.

Daugh White admitted he used his influence to make sure Bowling got contracts on several city water or sewer projects between 2004 and 2006 in return for Bowling paying $67,000 in kickbacks to Kennon White. Daugh White, who was mayor for more than 25 years, is in federal prison. His son hasn't been sentenced.

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