Clay County businessman, wife sentenced in vote-buying scam

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 12, 2011 

  • How the group corrupted elections

    Appointed election officers

    Recruited candidates for election

    Paid people to vote for specific candidates

    Changed the votes at the voting machine

  • Prison sentences

    R. Cletus Maricle, said to be the "boss" of the conspiracy. Maricle was sentenced to 261/2 years on charges of racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Douglas C. Adams, the former superintendent of schools, recruited people to run for office and helped solicit and distribute money to buy votes. Adams, 59, was sentenced to 24 years and five months on charges of racketeering and money laundering.

    Freddy W. Thompson, the county's chief election officer, gave money to buy votes and showed election officers how to steal votes. Thompson, 47, was sentenced to 121/2 years on charges of racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Stanley Bowling, a former magistrate, helped carry out vote-buying. He was sentenced to 15 years and 10 months on charges of racketeering and money laundering.

    Charles Wayne Jones, a former Democratic election commissioner who is Thompson's father-in-law, taught election officers how to buy votes and change votes. Jones, 71, was sentenced to 20 years on charges of racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    William E. Stivers, a former election official, oversaw vote-buying at the polls and helped collect money to buy votes. Stivers, 58, was sentenced to 24 years and four months on charges of racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Sentences to come

    William Bart Morris, who owned a garbage company, paid voters and got contracts from elected officials he helped. He will be sentenced Friday on charges of racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Debra Morris, William Morris' wife, checked names off a master list to track payments to voters. Debra Morris will be sentenced Friday on charges of racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to buy votes.

  • Charged and convicted

    R. Cletus Maricle, said to be the "boss" of the conspiracy. Maricle was sentenced to 261/2 years for racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Douglas C. Adams, the former superintendent of schools, recruited people to run for office and helped solicit and distribute money to buy votes. Adams, 59, was sentenced to 24 years and five months for racketeering and money laundering.

    Freddy W. Thompson, the county's chief election officer, gave money to buy votes and showed election officers how to steal votes. Thompson, 47, was sentenced to 121/2 years for racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Stanley Bowling, a former magistrate, took part in the vote-fraud conspiracy. He was sentenced to 15 years and 10 months for racketeering and money laundering.

    Charles Wayne Jones, a former Democratic election commissioner who is Thompson's father-in-law, taught election officers how to buy and change votes. Jones, 71, was sentenced to 20 years for racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    William E. Stivers, a former election official, oversaw vote- buying at the polls and helped collect money to buy votes. Stivers, 58, was sentenced to 24 years and four months for racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to violate voters' rights and conspiracy to buy votes.

    to be sentenced friday

    William Bart Morris, who owned a garbage company, paid voters and received contracts from elected officials he helped. He will be sentenced Friday for racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to buy votes.

    Debra Morris, William Bart Morris' wife, checked names off a master list to track payments to voters. Debra Morris will be sentenced Friday for racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to buy votes.

  • Appointed the election board membersPicked candidates for electionsPaid people to vote for specific candidatesChanged the votes at the polls

  • how the group corrupted elections

A Clay County businessman, who allegedly took part in vote fraud to help elect officials who could give him contracts, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced William Bart Morris, 52, Friday in federal court in Frankfort.

Reeves sentenced Morris' wife Debra Morris, 51, to 10 years in prison.

The sentences were the last for eight Clay County residents convicted last year of taking part in a racketeering enterprise that bought several thousand total votes in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 local elections.

The goal of the fraud was to control the county and enrich themselves and associates, prosecutors argued.

In addition to power, salaries and control over jobs, there were contracts at stake.

Bart Morris owned a garbage-transfer company that had contracts with Clay County and the city of Manchester at a time when there were people in office for whom he had helped buy votes, according to trial testimony.

The two local governments paid the company more than $1 million from 2002 to 2009.

Witnesses said Bart and Debra Morris helped handle payments to voters.

Reeves reportedly pointed to incidents of violence in which Bart Morris was involved as one reason for his 20-year sentence, which was above the range in advisory guidelines.

In one of those cases, vote-buyer Bobby Red Sams testified that Morris, who was working for a different candidate than Sams, beat him up in a dispute over a woman who had sold her vote.

The Morrises plan to appeal, said their attorneys, Jerry Gilbert and Elizabeth Hughes.

The other people convicted in the case also plan to appeal.

They are former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; former school Superintendent Douglas Adams; former county Clerk Freddy Thompson; former Magistrate Stanley Bowling; Charles Wayne Jones, who was the county's Democratic election commissioner; and William E. Stivers, an election officer.

All eight have been jailed since being convicted last March.

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