Clay County judge, judge-executive took part in vote fraud, judge finds

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 11, 2010 

FRANKFORT — The current circuit judge and judge-executive in Clay County, along with other prominent people, took part in vote fraud, a federal judge found yesterday.

Many of the people listed by U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves have not been charged, and his finding doesn't mean they will be, but it punctuates the extent of alleged vote-buying in the county in recent local elections.

Those Reeves said were involved in election fraud included Circuit Judge Oscar Gayle House; Judge-Executive Carl "Crawdad" Sizemore; Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Gregory; former state Rep. Barbara Colter and current state Rep. Tim Couch, a Hyden Republican who defeated Colter; former Jailer Charles Marcum; former Sheriff Edd Jordan, who is running for re-election; Manchester attorneys Yancey White and Carl Anthony Short; and Roy Morgan, a former magistrate influential in politics.

Reeves made his finding in the vote-fraud trial of eight other Clay County residents underway in federal court in Frankfort.

There has been testimony that several of the people named in the ruling bought votes or gave money to have votes bought for them.

The judge made the finding in ruling on whether certain evidence could be admitted. The finding was based on a level of evidence lower than that needed to convict someone in a criminal trial.

Also Wednesday, a defense attorney indicated two names on a list seized from the home of one of the defendants were the parents of state agriculture commissioner and University of Kentucky basketball legend Richie Farmer.

Timothy S. Briggs, the lead FBI agent in the investigation, said the FBI had information that people on the list were somehow involved in vote fraud, but he said he could not provide specifics.

The eight people on trial are former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; former school Superintendent Douglas Adams; county Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; 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 are charged with conspiring to commit vote fraud from 2002 to 2007 to gain power and enrich themselves. They have denied the charges.

Defense attorneys have questioned the credibility of some witnesses and said the charge that the eight schemed together doesn't make sense because some supported different candidates in various elections.

The May 2002 primary, the first election covered in the charges, was a "violent and corrupt affair" that caused lasting hard feelings among some of the eight people on trial, said Elizabeth Hughes, Debra Morris' attorney.

However, Reeves said prosecutors don't have to prove all eight supported the same candidates to show a conspiracy.

Hughes, who had reserved her opening statement, told jurors Wednesday that the Morrises weren't even in Manchester during some elections in which they are accused of paying off voters.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Smith, finished the main case against the eight Wednesday.

Defense attorneys then asked Reeves to acquit the eight, arguing in part that prosecutors had not offered enough proof, but Reeves said there had been proof that the eight took part in election fraud.

Defense attorneys then began calling witnesses.

One, handwriting expert Steven Slyter, testified he didn't believe Maricle or his wife, Judy, wrote a list of purported grand jury witnesses that one woman testified Maricle gave her.

The witness, Wanda White, had not testified she saw Maricle write the list.

The trial is expected to last several more days.

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