A Magoffin County magistrate convicted in a vote-buying conspiracy was sentenced Thursday to two years and nine months in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves also ordered Gary “Rooster” Risner to perform 550 hours of community service after he is released from prison.
The judge imposed that requirement in lieu of a fine, said Risner’s attorney, Michael J. Curtis.
Reeves also sentenced another county official, Larry Shepherd, to two years and six months in prison and fined him $20,000, according to U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey’s office.
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Shepherd is a deputy clerk in the office held by his wife, Magoffin County Clerk Renee Arnett-Shepherd.
Reeves sentenced a third person convicted in the conspiracy, Risner’s ex-wife Tami Jo Risner, to one year and one day in prison.
The three were charged with taking part in a scheme in 2014 to buy votes for Democrats Risner, Renee Arnett-Shepherd and county Judge-Executive Charles “Doc” Hardin.
A fourth person charged, Scotty L. McCarty, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and testified against the others, saying he had taken part in vote-fraud efforts with Hardin, Risner and Larry Shepherd in several elections.
In one case, for instance, McCarty said he added 60 votes to the total for a state representative candidate while working as a precinct officer, and then Risner signed names in a log book of registered voters in order to make the totals balance.
Several people testified members of the vote-buying ring paid them $50 apiece in the 2014 election.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor said in court that Risner handled the money for payoffs in 2014, while Tami Jo Risner and a man named Mason Daniels recruited people to sell their votes and Shepherd used his position in the clerk’s office to help operate the scheme.
Defense attorneys argued prosecution witnesses were not reliable, but jurors convicted Risner, his ex-wife and Larry Shepherd. The jury acquitted Daniels.
Hardin, who is serving his fourth term, was not charged in the case and has denied involvement in vote fraud.
Curtis and Jason M. Nemes, who represents Shepherd, said both men will appeal.
“My client maintains his innocence,” Nemes said.
Nemes said Shepherd will resign his job at the clerk’s office.
Curtis said Risner plans to resign within the next couple of weeks, even though he could legally stay in office while appealing.
“I just don’t think that that’s fair to the people of Magoffin County, and Rooster doesn’t either,” Curtis said of Risner staying in office while facing a prison sentence.
Reeves ordered Risner and Shepherd to report to prison by 2 p.m. on Jan. 30.
Reeves ordered Tami Jo Risner jailed immediately because she had violated a provision of her bond by using marijuana, according to a court record.