Ruling allows release of 2 in Clay County vote-buying case

A former circuit judge and an election commissioner charged with buying votes in Clay County can be released from jail under strict conditions, a federal judge has ruled.

Prosecutors had asked that former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle and Charles Wayne Jones, the county's Democratic election commissioner, be jailed until the trial in the case, now scheduled for September.

Prosecutors argued that Maricle was a danger to try to obstruct justice, and that Jones had taken part in intimidating two witnesses after he, Maricle and others were arrested in March.

Maricle's attorney, however, argued that the evidence for keeping him in jail was without merit.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves denied the requests to keep Maricle and Jones in jail, but said they should be placed under a number of measures to make sure they don't try to influence witnesses.

Those include home incarceration with electronic monitoring, as well as a ban on discussing the case with anyone except through their attorneys, and limits on their visitors and on telephone and computer use.

The two have to keep a log of their visits and calls, Reeves said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Wier said in a separate order that he would announce additional release conditions Friday for Maricle.

Maricle and Jones are among eight people indicted in March on charges that they conspired to rig elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 by buying or stealing votes.

Others charged include school Superintendent Doug Adams and county Clerk Freddy Thompson. All but Maricle were initially released pending trial.

Prosecutors later had Jones arrested, arguing he had violated his release terms by discussing the case with potential witnesses and motivating a family friend to threaten two government witnesses.

That man, Richard Brian Hubbard, has been charged with sending an email of himself holding a gun to two witnesses.

Jones' attorney argued he did not direct Hubbard to send the message.