3 get light sentences in Clay case, but judge says others won't

LONDON — A judge gave sentencing breaks Monday to three men who helped in an investigation of vote-buying in Clay County but made clear that some prominent people convicted in the case can't expect the same.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves denounced vote fraud. Eastern Kentucky has economic and other problems and doesn't need the added burden of public corruption, Reeves said.

"This type of activity cannot continue in Eastern Kentucky," he said.

Reeves also pointed out that in the Clay County case, the election fraud had ties to drug trafficking.

Reeves said people who buy and sell votes should be ashamed, but some aren't. He pointed to the recent trial of public officials who denied scheming to buy votes but were convicted.

"Arrogance was on full display" during the trial, Reeves said.

People convicted in that trial won't get the same breaks as those sentenced Monday, Reeves said.

Those convicted were former Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle; former school Superintendent Douglas Adams; county Clerk Freddy W. Thompson; Magistrate Stanley Bowling; Charles Wayne Jones, a former Democratic election commissioner; William Stivers, a former election official; and William Bart Morris and his wife, Debra Morris.

They allegedly conspired to buy and steal votes so they could get power, jobs and contracts.

All eight plan to appeal. They are scheduled to be sentenced in August.

Reeves said that there are good people in Clay County but that others preyed on them, and that too many people came to see nothing wrong with buying and selling votes.

"That mind-set's going to have to stop," he said.

Those sentenced Monday were D. Kennon White, Paul Bishop and Charles "Dobber" Weaver.

White, 41, admitted that after his father, longtime Manchester Mayor Daugh White, created a job for him as city manager in 2004, he extorted $67,000 in kickbacks on city contracts to Bowling's company.

White also took part in a scheme to pave private driveways, using public funds, in order to win votes for his father in 2006.

After he got caught, White and his wife, Wanda, helped the FBI task force investigating vote fraud.

They made secret tape-recordings of Maricle and others and testified extensively for prosecutors at the trial.

In urging probation for Kennon White, his attorney, Brent L. Caldwell, said the Whites put themselves at great risk to help investigators and have been threatened and intimidated.

They have moved out of Clay County and might have to move again, Caldwell said.

"He has been through a living nightmare the last three years, but he has done the right thing," Caldwell said.

Reeves said he doesn't often give breaks, but said White had earned one with assistance to the government.

The advisory sentencing range for White was 57 to 71 months. Reeves sentenced him to five years on probation, with six months of that on home detention. He must also repay the city $30,000 for the illegal paving work.

The guideline range for Bishop, a former school employee, was 97 to 121 months. Reeves sentenced him to 36 months.

Reeves credited Bishop, 61, for his cooperation with the government and reduced his potential sentence because of his age, poor health and other factors. But Reeves said he couldn't give Bishop less time because he was part of a very serious offense.

Bishop admitted he allowed Adams to use his garage for a meeting where vote-buying was discussed.

At that meeting before the May 2002 primary election, candidates pooled at least $150,000 to be used to buy votes, Bishop said in his plea.

Bishop also said he served as an election officer in the early, absentee voting in May 2002, working inside the polling place to make sure people who had sold their votes cast ballots for the people they'd been paid to support.

Reeves sentenced Weaver, the former fire chief of Manchester, to be on probation for three years, with five months of home detention.

The guideline range for Weaver was 10 to 16 months, but, as with White and Bishop, prosecutors recommended a lesser sentence because of Weaver's cooperation.

Weaver wept as he told Reeves he had tried to do good in his community but let others persuade him to get involved in vote fraud.

Weaver admitted he took part in a scheme to steal votes in the May 2006 primary, in which he and Wanda White were precinct officers.

The county had new voting machines that year that required people to push two buttons to vote: one to review their choices and the second to record them.

That created opportunity for a scam in which corrupt precinct officers duped people into thinking they had voted after pressing the first button, then switched the votes, according to trial testimony.

Weaver and Wanda White testified they both took part in that scheme, stealing numerous votes.

Weaver hoped to get a county job by participating.

Wanda White, who was not charged in the case, said Maricle recruited her to work that election to help his son-in-law, who was running for property valuation administrator.

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