Bribes, shootings, beatings marred Clay elections, witnesses testify

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 5, 2010 

FRANKFORT — A former Manchester City Council member trying to regain the seat gave a former employee money to buy votes in November 2006, the former employee testified Thursday.

Raleigh Downey testified that the former council member, Gary "Ouchie" Jackson, told him that D. Kennon White, whose father was running for mayor, supplied the money for the bribes of $40 to $50 to voters.

Downey said he ran out of money at one point but Jackson brought him more.

Jackson is an unindicted co-conspirator in election fraud in Clay County, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Parman said Thursday.

The vote-fraud trial of eight county residents has included information about others who allegedly were involved in vote-buying but haven't been charged, including current and former elected officials. Those include Edd Jordan, a longtime sheriff who lost re-election in 2006 but has filed to run for the office this year in the Republican primary.

The eight people on trial in federal court in Frankfort are former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; former county school Superintendent Douglas Adams; county Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; Thompson's father-in-law, Charles Wayne Jones, a former county Democratic election commissioner; William Stivers, also a former election official; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; and William "Bart" Morris and his wife, Debra, who allegedly paid voters.

They allegedly schemed to buy and steal votes from 2002 to 2007 to help themselves and others.

The eight have denied the charges. Their attorneys have questioned the credibility and accuracy of witnesses against them, including a number of convicted felons hoping for shorter sentences by providing testimony.

The prosecution witnesses, however, have said they were telling the truth about organized, widespread vote buying in the county.

The first election covered in the alleged conspiracy, the May 2002 primary, was a volatile contest marred by shootings, threats and dozens of complaints.

Bobby "Red" Sams testified that as he worked that day to take people to the polls and then to be paid, he got beaten up and arrested.

Sams said he worked for a slate of candidates that included Thompson, who was in a hot race for county clerk with two-term incumbent Jennings B. White.

Sams said at one point, the White faction had paid a woman to vote its way, but she got in Sams' car outside an apartment building to go to the polls.

Sams said White's brother, Bill, tried to get the woman out of the car. As he and Bill White argued over the voter, Morris, who was supporting Jennings White, came over and started hitting him, Sams said.

"He worked me over pretty good," Sams said.

Sams said he went home for a shower, then headed out to pick up more voters. Not long after, Todd Roberts, then the assistant police chief, had him charged with menacing a woman, Sams said.

Roberts had him arrested because Roberts was supporting Jennings White, Sams said.

A former investigator for the state attorney general's office, David Sutherland, said the office received far more election complaints from Clay County in May 2002 than any other county — 63, compared to six from Fayette County, for instance.

The office contacted the FBI, he said.

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