Buying votes a tradition in Clay County, witness says

FRANKFORT — A convicted drug dealer testified Tuesday that bidding to buy votes in one Clay County race in 1983 was so heated that he ended up paying one man $800.

Kenneth Day said he worked with Douglas C. Adams, who would later become school superintendent, to buy votes for one circuit judge candidate in that election while R. Cletus Maricle, who would later become circuit judge, bought votes for an opposing candidate.

Votes were selling for $100 apiece, but one man drove up the price as the two sides vied to show their power, Day, a former county election commissioner, testified.

"Cletus was trying to steal our voters" that Adams and he had lined up to bribe, Day said.

Maricle and Adams are charged with heading a scheme to buy and steal votes in Clay County from 2002 to 2007.

The others charged with them are county Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; former election officials Charles Wayne Jones and William Stivers; and Bart and Debra Morris, who own a waste-hauling company.

All eight have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is scheduled next month.

Prosecutors want to introduce allegations that some of the defendants were involved in wrongdoing long before 2002. That request was the subject of Tuesday's hearing.

That evidence is necessary to tell the full story of the conspiracy, prosecutors argue.

Attorneys for those charged, however, have said the allegations of vote fraud going back more than 20 years are false, and they oppose having that information presented to jurors.

Day and other government witnesses are convicted felons trying to help prosecutors to get time cut from their sentences, Maricle's attorney has said.

Day, for instance, is serving an 18-year sentence on federal drug charges.

He testified Tuesday that while Maricle and Adams were on different sides in the 1983 circuit judge's race between Oscar Gayle House and Clay M. Bishop, they worked together to buy votes for magistrate candidate Mike Hooker in 1985.

The two double-crossed another candidate, taking money to buy votes for him but instead using it for Hooker, Day said.

"Just the way of Clay County," Day shrugged.

Day said Maricle and Adams bought so many votes for Hooker that they became concerned for their safety. They told on-lookers at the polling place that Hooker's opponent had won so they could get away to the courthouse to have the votes counted, Day said.

Day also testified that Maricle helped fix a jury verdict days before he became circuit judge in 1990. Maricle had a man who was close to a juror in a lawsuit call and tell her to hold out for a judgment of at least $1 million, Day said.

Day had helped file the lawsuit, which involved a wreck that killed his sister-in-law.

On cross-examination, Day could not remember some details. He also acknowledged he was a heavy methamphetamine user for years.