Former Eastern Kentucky mayor faces charges in second federal criminal case

bestep@herald-leader.comDecember 31, 2013 

The former mayor of the small Floyd County town of Martin faces a court appearance next week in a second federal criminal case.

Ruth Thomasine Robinson and five other people are charged with conspiring to intimidate voters during the November 2012 election. Robinson ultimately came up short by three votes in her bid for another term as mayor of the city of 600.

A federal grand jury indicted the six in mid-December. Their initial appearance is scheduled Jan. 7.

Also charged are Robinson's husband, James "Red" Robinson; his son, James Steven Robinson; city employees Ginger Michelle Halbert and Henry A. Mullins; and Johnny T. Moore, who allegedly helped in Robinson's 2012 re-election campaign.

Members of the conspiracy went to people who lived in public housing administered by the city — or in rental housing owned by Robinson — and had them request absentee ballots from the county clerk, using letters provided by people in the group, the indictment said.

Once the voters had the ballots, someone involved in the conspiracy filled them out or told the people which names to check, according to the charges.

The alleged conspirators implied to some people that they could get a better apartment for voting the right way. In other cases, they used the threat of eviction if people didn't vote as they were supposed to, the indictment said.

Robinson even had city police officers deliver eviction notices to some people, the indictment said.

In one instance, the indictment said, two people now charged in the case harassed a man so badly that he wouldn't leave his apartment for fear of physical harm.

The indictment did not specify which two people were allegedly involved in that incident.

Some of the people targeted by members of the group were vulnerable because they were poor or were physically or mentally disabled, the indictment alleged.

In addition to conspiracy, Thomasine Robinson, her husband, her stepson, Mullins and Moore also allegedly paid voters.

In a separate case, Robinson and three other Martin residents were charged in October in a case involving alleged disability fraud.

That indictment charged that Halbert secretly received paychecks in the name of her son while working for the city and concealed the income from the Social Security Administration.

Halbert received disability payments. There is a limit on how much money disability recipients can receive from other sources.

The others allegedly involved in the conspiracy were Robinson; her daughter, Rita Christine Whicker, who once worked for the city housing authority and headed the Martin Community Center; and Ethel Lee Clouse, a city bookkeeper.

Halbert, who is in her early 40s, also is charged with getting $72,000 in disability payments she wasn't entitled to receive; concealing her income from the Social Security Administration; and with using her son's name to cash payroll checks.

All four have pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled for trial Jan. 21.

The conspiracy charge in each of the cases carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

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

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