Sentences cut for Clay vote-buying testimony

Prosecutors in Clay case sought reductions for five who cooperated

bestep@herald-leader.comApril 24, 2010 

LONDON — A federal judge has reduced the sentences of five men whose testimony helped convict several Clay County officials charged in a widespread vote-buying scheme.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves reduced the sentences of Richard Todd Roberts, a former assistant police chief; Vernon Hacker, a former Manchester city council member and director of the local 911 system; Kenneth Day, who had been a Republican election commissioner; Jennings B. White, who served two terms as county clerk; and Eugene "Mutton" Lewis, a longtime vote-buyer.

All five cooperated with federal investigators after getting caught in various drug or public-corruption cases. They provided information about chronic vote-buying in the county and testified at the trial of eight residents recently convicted of election fraud.

Federal prosecutors sought lower sentences for them as a result of their cooperation.

Reeves said he was not minimizing what the five men did. However, their help was valuable in bringing others to justice, the judge said in court Friday.

Day at one time helped operate one of the largest drug rings in Eastern Kentucky, but he also had bought votes for many years and served on the county board of elections in the 1990s, helping put precinct officers in place to assist in vote fraud.

He began cooperating with federal agents after getting arrested in a drug case in 2005, providing a window into vote-buying in Clay County, and he has been a key witness for prosecutors in several court proceedings.

"He's getting a reduction because he's earned the reduction," Reeves said.

Reeves cut Day's sentence from 192 months to 92. Reeves said it was the most he could remember ever cutting someone's sentence.

Roberts was sentenced to 87 months in November 2007 after admitting he got a drug dealer to burn down a vacant house in Manchester so the city could buy the property for construction of a new police station and 911 center, and to lying to the FBI.

Hacker and longtime Manchester Mayor Daugh White also were involved in that arson scheme. White is in prison on corruption charges.

Reeves cut Roberts' sentence to 47 months, noting his cooperation and the fact he has taken a number of college classes in prison.

Roberts' attorney said he has paid $25,000 in restitution to an insurance company and a $15,000 fine that were part of his original sentence.

Roberts has served about 30 months of his sentence.

Hacker was sentenced in November 2007 to 120 months in prison after pleading guilty in a conspiracy to sell cocaine and pain pills. A drug dealer testified that Hacker had tipped him off about police activity.

Reeves reduced Hacker's sentence by 44 months, to 76 months.

The judge also cut 44 months from Lewis' sentence — from 144 months to 100.

On Thursday, Reeves cut Jennings White's sentence to 70 months, down from the original 90 months imposed in February 2006.

White admitted he laundered drug money for Day and conspired to bribe Hacker to get back 30 pounds of marijuana seized from a customer of Day's.

In addition to his jail time, White was fined $25,000 and forfeited $650,000 to the government.

There is no parole in the federal court system, but like other federal prisoners, Day and the others could get an additional 15 percent off their time behind bars for good behavior.

The people Day and the others testified against were some of the most prominent in Clay County, including former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle, 66; former school Superintendent Douglas C. Adams, 58; and county Clerk Freddy W. Thompson.

After a seven-week trial that ended in March, jurors deliberated only a few hours before convicting all eight people in the case on every charge.

The others convicted were Magistrate Stanley Bowling, 59; Charles Wayne Jones, 69, a former county Democratic election commissioner; William Stivers, 57, a former precinct worker; and William Bart Morris, 51, who owns a garbage-transfer company and his wife, Debra L. Morris, 50, who owns a beauty shop.

Jurors decided they used the county election board as a tool to rig elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 so they could get power, jobs and contracts.

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