Prosecutor moves to set aside convictions in part of Clay Co. case

bestep@herald-leader.comAugust 28, 2010 

Two Clay County men found guilty in a large vote-buying conspiracy should have their convictions set aside in part, a federal prosecutor said.

However, the prosecutor argued the most serious convictions against the two should stand.

The motion, filed Friday, affects county Clerk Freddy Thompson, a Republican, and Charles Wayne Jones, a former Democratic county election commissioner.

The two were among eight county residents, several of them current or former officeholders, convicted in March of conspiring to buy or steal votes on a wide scale in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 local elections to win power and enrich themselves and associates.

Among other things, Thompson and Jones, his father-in-law, were convicted of four counts of mail fraud for allegedly sending false election results to Frankfort.

Those four counts should be set aside in light of a subsequent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Smith, said in a motion filed Friday.

That Supreme Court case involved former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling, who was convicted of fraud after the collapse of the giant energy company.

In his challenge of that conviction, the high court narrowed the scope of the mail fraud law, confining it to bribery and kickback schemes.

Attorneys for Thompson and Jones had argued their mail-fraud convictions should be set aside based on the Supreme Court ruling.

Smith agreed that what Thompson and Jones were charged with doing didn't fall within the limits of the mail-fraud law as defined in the Skilling decision.

Smith, however, said there was ample evidence in the case — including testimony about payments to thousands of voters — to uphold the other convictions against Thompson and Jones.

In addition to mail fraud, jurors convicted Thompson and Jones of conspiracy to control elections; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and conspiracy to steal and buy votes.

Thompson was convicted of obstruction of justice. Jurors convicted Jones of attempted extortion.

The others convicted in the case were former Circuit Judge Cletus Maricle; former school Superintendent Doug Adams; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; William Stivers, a former precinct worker; and William Bart Morris, who owns a garbage-transfer company, and his wife, Debra L. Morris.

They have not been sentenced.

Several are challenging their convictions based on the Skilling case and other issues.

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