Ex-judge denies steering witness testimony

Maricle testifies for second day in vote-fraud trial

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 13, 2010 

FRANKFORT — Former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle denied that he tried to influence what a witness told a grand jury investigating allegations of vote fraud by Maricle and other prominent Clay County residents.

Testifying Friday in his federal trial on vote-buying charges, Maricle categorically denied he did anything illegal in the elections at issue in the case.

One witness, Wanda White, had testified that Maricle told her not to volunteer information to the grand jury and sent her to see William Stivers, a friend of his, who suggested how she could answer questions before the panel.

White was cooperating with investigators and made secret recordings of Maricle and others.

On one tape, Stivers told White not to lie to the grand jury but also to not admit anything.

Maricle said he never told White to say anything untruthful and did not talk to Stivers about her grand-jury testimony.

Maricle and seven other Clay County residents are charged with conspiring to buy or steal votes between 2002 and 2007 so they could enrich themselves and others.

The case is a continuation of a long-running FBI investigation in which several prominent county residents have been convicted on drug and corruption charges.

However, those on trial have denied they schemed to commit election fraud.

In addition to Maricle, they are former school superintendent Douglas C. Adams; County Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; Charles Wayne Jones, a former county Democratic election commissioner; Stivers, also a former election official; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; and William "Bart" Morris and his wife Debra, who allegedly paid voters.

Maricle spent hours on the witness stand Thursday and Friday to answer allegations against him, which he said were false or, in some cases, based on misunderstandings.

For instance, he said he did not give White a list of grand-jury witnesses, as she said he did; never promised her a job in return for helping steal votes; did not let vote-buyer Bobby "Red'' Sams out of jail to help with vote fraud, as testimony suggested; and did not try to find out where agents investigating him lived, as an agent testified.

One witness said Maricle helped fix the jury in a lawsuit in 1990 so one side would win a lot of money.

Maricle said that was a lie and that he had never taken part in jury-tampering, though he acknowledged he was concerned it went on in the county.

Maricle said he took steps to try to combat the problem — sequestering juries in criminal cases, for instance, or limiting the use of juror-information forms.

But Maricle said he couldn't limit who came into the public courtroom, and that having someone with a tie to a juror attend the proceedings was a way to try to influence a jury panel.

In cross-examining Maricle, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Smith suggested the former judge had not been forthright on some issues, such as his statement that he had never had an interest in a home-incarceration program in Clay County. Documents show he did, Smith said.

Maricle responded that he had not been involved in a for-profit home-detention business.

Smith also said it appeared Maricle had violated judicial ethics rules.

For instance, Stivers said on one tape that Maricle had dictated the choice of precinct officers in an election. That would violate a rule against political activity by judges, Smith said.

Maricle denied that he had any power to influence the choice of election officers.

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