Ex-mayor of Floyd County town is convicted of intimidating poor people to vote for her

bestep@herald-leader.comMay 9, 2014 

The former mayor of Martin, in Floyd County, intimidated poor people to vote for her, a federal jury ruled late Thursday.

Jurors convicted Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, of conspiring to violate voters' civil rights and of one charge of vote-buying.

The jury also convicted her husband, James "Red" Robinson, 64, and her stepson, James Steven Robinson, 32, on conspiracy and vote-buying charges, but acquitted a fourth person charged in the case, Johnny T. Moore.

A fifth person, Henry Mullins, pleaded guilty earlier to a vote-buying charge.

People involved in the scheme went to residents of public housing controlled by the town, or who lived in rental units owned by Robinson, and had them request absentee ballots for the November 2012 election, in which Robinson was seeking another term, according to the indictment.

Trial testimony showed that members of the conspiracy filled out ballots for the voters and then had them sign the documents, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.

People who went along with the scam were promised better living arrangements, while those who didn't faced eviction notices and the loss of priority for public housing, Harvey said.

People backing Robinson also offered money to people to vote for her.

Robinson lost the election by three votes.

The conspiracy charge in the case carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The top sentence on the vote-buying charges is five years.

Sentencing is scheduled in September.

It was the second federal conviction for Robinson this year.

In February, she and her daughter Rita Christine Whicker, former director of the community center in the town of 600, were convicted on charges of conspiracy, fraud, theft of disability benefits and aggravated identify theft.

The two conspired to secretly pay a city worker by issuing checks for her in someone else's name so she could also keep getting her federal disability payments.

That woman, Ginger Michelle Halbert, pleaded guilty.

The three have not been sentenced. In addition to possible prison time, the government is seeking a judgment of $178,049 against the three, according to a court record.

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

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