Former Clay County judge says he bought votes, but not recently

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 12, 2010 

FRANKFORT — Former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle admitted he bought votes in an election in Clay County more than 20 years ago, but he flatly denied taking part in more recent vote-fraud conspiracies in which he is charged.

Maricle, who was circuit judge for Clay, Jackson and Leslie counties from September 1990 to June 2007, said he bought votes in a 1983 election for circuit judge. Maricle, a Democrat, was a lawyer in Manchester at the time.

"I didn't get too many, because I didn't have much money," Maricle testified Thursday.

Earlier, a former Republican county election commissioner testified he and Douglas C. Adams, who would later become the school superintendent, bought votes in competition with Maricle in that 1983 race.

The former GOP election commissioner, Kenneth Day, said the bidding to bribe voters got so hot that he ended up paying one person $800.

Maricle said Day was right about him buying votes in 1983 but denied Day's testimony that Maricle double-crossed a candidate in 1985 by taking money to buy votes for him but using it to buy votes for an opponent.

Maricle also denied he helped fix a jury verdict in a 1990 civil lawsuit to guarantee a big damage award for one side, contradicting testimony from Day, a convicted drug dealer.

Maricle and Adams, now both retired, are on trial in federal court in Frankfort on charges that they headed a scheme to buy and steal votes from 2002 to 2007, when both were in office.

The others charged with them are 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 have denied the charges.

Maricle, 66, took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday, disputing details of earlier testimony against him.

For instance, there has been testimony that he did favors for people in court in return for help in rigging elections, but Maricle said he did not do that. In one particular case at issue, he wasn't the judge, Maricle said.

Maricle also said he did not promise to get one woman, Wanda White, a job in return for helping rig an election in 2006, as she said he did.

Maricle said he was not involved in buying votes in elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 — the years he allegedly headed the scheme to corrupt elections.

Witnesses have testified that Maricle took part in a plan to steal votes in the May 2006 primary, in which his son-in-law, Phillip Mobley, was running for property valuation administrator.

The plan involved duping people into walking away from voting machines before completing their ballots, then having corrupt election officers switch the votes to Mobley and others.

Maricle acknowledged he wanted Mobley to win but said he did not take part in vote fraud to make that happen.

"I didn't do anything illegal," Maricle said.

Mobley is an unindicted co-conspirator in the vote-fraud case, U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves said in a ruling this week.

Prosecutors are expected to cross-examine Maricle on Friday.

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