Two convicted in Breathitt vote-buying case

bestep@herald-leader.comApril 11, 2012 

Two people were convicted Thursday of taking part in a scheme to buy votes in the May 2010 primary election in Breathitt County.

A federal jury convicted Naomi Johnson, 61, and Earl Young, 44, of conspiracy and vote-buying, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.

A third person charged with them, Jackie Jennings, 61, pleaded guilty Monday as the trial for the three was set to begin.

The three bought votes for Michael Salyers, who was a candidate for magistrate in the primary, according to court records.

Salyers pleaded guilty in February. He admitted someone else gave him hundreds of dollars to use to buy votes.

Salyers' plea agreement did not identify who supplied the money, but court records say his case is related to a separate indictment accusing Breathitt County schools superintendent Arch Turner with conspiring to buy votes, lying to a federal agent and trying to get a witness to withhold information.

Turner allegedly told an FBI agent he hadn't given anyone money with which to buy votes, when in fact he had, according to the indictment.

Turner has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in May.

In Salyers' case, he admitted he met with voters at a store he owns, made the deal to pay them, then sent someone with them to the courthouse during the early voting period to confirm they cast their ballots.

The voters then came back to the store to be paid, according to a court document.

At the trial for Young and Johnson, one witness testified he received $25 to sell his vote, according to the news release from Harvey.

Salyers is to be sentenced May 23, and Jennings, Johnson and Young will be sentenced July 26. Each faces up to five years in prison.

The Salyers and Turner cases are related to vote-fraud charges against five others as well, according to court documents.

The people charged in that case are Paula Jean Noble, a school employee; George D. "Bear" Strong, a school board member; his brother Joseph Strong; Richard L. Turner; and Woodrow Glenn Burton.

George and Joseph Strong and Turner have filed motions to plead guilty.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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