Ex-drug dealer testifies of jury tampering and vote-buying in Clay County

bestep@herald-leader.comFebruary 5, 2010 

FRANKFORT — Kenneth Day was once one of Clay County's top drug dealers, but he was also a prolific vote-buyer and helped tamper with local jury verdicts, he testified Thursday.

Day said that often, he or others associated with him would know someone on the jury or a relative of a jury member whom they could contact to try to influence the verdict.

"I can't tell you how many juries I worked" before going to prison in 1997, Day said. "We approached them to make a decision for us on a jury time and time again."

Day testified in federal court in Frankfort in a case against eight Clay County residents charged with conspiring to corrupt elections by buying or stealing votes in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Day testified that he was involved when one of those charged, former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle, took part in contacting a juror in a civil case in 1990 to push for a judgment of at least $1 million.

The lawsuit involved a wreck in which Day's sister-in-law was killed.

Maricle is not charged with jury-tampering in the current federal case. Day's testimony was meant to provide background on the alleged vote-fraud conspiracy.

However, attorneys for several of those charged attacked Day's credibility, suggesting he would lie to help prosecutors in order to get his 18-year prison sentence reduced.

Day acknowledged he once testified that Maricle was the judge in the case he allegedly helped fix, when that wasn't the case. Day said he made a mistake, and that actually Maricle was to be appointed judge soon after.

Day said his deal with the government requires truthful testimony.

But Bennett Bayer, an attorney for one of those charged, pointed out that Day started selling drugs several years ago while he was on supervised release from an earlier drug charge — a time when he wasn't supposed to break the law.

Day also said he was close to former Clay County Clerk Jennings White, a bitter enemy of former county school Superintendent Douglas Adams. Adams is charged with Maricle in the vote-fraud case.

White once asked him to plant drugs in Adams' vehicle to get him arrested, Day said, but he didn't do it.

Day's son once worked for the school system Adams headed but was fired for coming to work high on drugs, Day confirmed.

Maricle and Adams are charged with heading a conspiracy to buy or steal votes to benefit themselves and others.

Those charged with them are County Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; Charles Wayne Jones, a former county Democratic election commissioner; William Stivers, who has served as an election official; and William "Bart" Morris and his wife, Debra.

They have denied the charges.

In testimony Thursday, Day, who was at one time the county's Republican election commissioner, described a local political culture corrupted by chronic, widespread vote-buying.

Typically, Day said, candidates gave large sums of cash to vote-buyers, who then approached people as they came to polling places and offered them money. If the voters agreed, the buyers sent them to a complicit elections officer inside, who looked to make sure they voted the right way, then signaled to the vote-buyer outside to pay them, Day said.

"Every election I ever worked, it went on," said Day, who bought votes at the Burning Springs precinct.

Day, 58, testified he witnessed Adams and Maricle buy votes at the polls in the mid-1980s, before they allegedly moved up to direct the enterprise.

A number of times in the case, names of people not charged — but who allegedly took part in improper acts — have surfaced in court documents or testimony. That happened during Day's testimony Thursday.

For example, Day said he bought votes for Sheriff Edd Jordan in the 1980s and 1990s.

"When I was buying votes at Burning Springs, Edd was always on my list," Day said.

Day said that sometime after he got back from serving a prison sentence in 2001, Jordan told him he would never investigate Day. At the time, Day was running a major marijuana ring from his pawn shop at Burning Springs.

"I had Edd Jordan's assurance on that, that he would never bother me," Day said.

Jordan lost re-election in 2006 but is running again this year.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Smith this week described Jordan as an unindicted co-conspirator in the election-fraud case.

The charges against Maricle, Adams and others is part of a larger investigation in which several public officials and prominent county residents were convicted earlier.

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