More guilty pleas imminent in Clay County vote-buying case

Additional guilty pleas are imminent in a federal vote-buying case involving several former public officials in Clay County, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell did not specify which of the five remaining defendants plan to plead guilty, but she said she'd been notified of the development in communications from attorneys for former county Clerk Freddy Thompson and Charles Wayne Jones, who was an election commissioner.

Thompson's attorney, Russell Baldani, said in a separate court filing that Thompson has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

The pleas are premised on preserving certain issues for appeal, however, Caldwell said in a decision filed Thursday.

The decision denied requests by defense attorneys to dismiss the racketeering charge against the five people still charged in the case.

Those initially tried in 2010 were longtime Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; school Superintendent Doug Adams; Thompson; Jones; then-Magistrate Stanley Bowling; William Stivers, who had been a precinct worker; and Bart and Debra Morris.

The eight allegedly conspired to buy votes in local elections between 2002 and 2007.

A jury convicted all eight, but a federal appeals panel overturned the convictions because of trial errors.

Bowling and the Morrises later pleaded guilty. A new trial for the other five is scheduled to begin Nov. 4 before Caldwell, who assumed the case after the appeals decision.

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