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Several Clay County Officials Arrested On Federal Charges  (KY)

LEX18      19 March 2009

Five Clay County officials, including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers were arrested Thursday after they were indicted on federal charges accusing them of using corrupt tactics to obtain political power and personal gain.

The 10-count indictment, unsealed Thursday, accused the defendants of a conspiracy from March 2002 until November 2006 that violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO is a federal statute that prosecutors use to combat organized crime. The defendants were also indicted for extortion, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to injure voters' rights and conspiracy to commit voter fraud.

According to the indictment, these alleged criminal actions affected the outcome of federal, local, and state primary and general elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006. The indictment accused the defendants of the following criminal actions:

    * Clay County Circuit Court Judge Russell Cletus Maricle, 65, and school superintendent Douglas C. Adams, 57, allegedly used their status in the county to influence the appointment of corrupt members to the Clay County Board of Election Officials and caused election officers to commit acts of extortion, mail fraud, and bribery. Maricle also allegedly instructed a witness to testify falsely before a federal grand jury in Lexington.
    * Clay County Clerk, Freddy Thompson, 45, allegedly provided money to election officers to be distributed by the officers to buy votes and he also instructed officers how to change votes at the voting machine. The indictment also accused Thompson of a false testimony before a grand jury in Lexington.
    * Election officer William E. Stivers, 56, allegedly marked votes or issued tickets to voters who had sold their votes and changed votes at the voting machine. Stivers also allegedly instructed a witness to testify falsely before a federal grand jury.
    * Paul E. Bishop, 60, allegedly marked voters or issued tickets to voters who sold their votes and he also hosted alleged meetings at his home where money was pooled together by candidates and distributed to election officers, including himself. He was also accused of instructing the officers how to change votes at the voting machine.
    * William B. Morris, 66, and Debra L. Morris, 49, distributed funds pooled by the members of the scheme in order to buy votes. The couple owned and operated a transportation sanitation company and was active in the political affairs of Clay County.

A board of election officials consists of the county clerk, the sheriff, and two members appointed by the State Board of Elections, ed from a list of names submitted by the Republican and Democratic parties in the county. In addition, the board is required to hire election officers, which includes two judges, one clerk and one sheriff for each precinct in each election of every year in which a primary and general election is held.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the FBI, Kentucky State Police, and Appalachia HIDTA. The indictment was presented to the grand jury by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen C. Smith and Ken Taylor. The defendants' appearance before the United States District Court has not yet been set by the Court in London, Ky.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the United States Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of sentences.

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