MARCH 26, 2009
Five high-ranking public officials in southeast Kentucky’s impoverished Appalachian Mountain region have been arrested and federally indicted for masterminding a vote buying operation to obtain political power and personal gain.
A veteran judge, top clerk, school superintendent and two election board members in Clay County (population around 25,000) are charged with conspiring to steal federal, local and state primary and general elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006. A 10-count indictment charges them with extortion, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to injure voters’ rights and conspiracy to commit voter fraud.
Prosecutors say that Clay County Circuit Court Judge Russell Maricle and school Superintendent Douglas Adams used their status in the county to influence the appointment of corrupt members to the Clay County Board of Elections and that the men influenced election officers to change votes in various elections. The judge also instructed witnesses to lie to a grand jury in Lexington, according to the indictment.
The county clerk distributed cash to election officers that was later used to buy votes and instructed the officers how to change ballots on electronic machines. The corrupt officials took advantage of the coal field region’s largely uneducated poverty-stricken residents, offering cash for votes and duping citizens into leaving voting booths before their ballot was officially recorded. Corrupt election workers would subsequently change the votes.
If convicted the officials could go to prison for up to two decades. Judge Maricle, long considered the area’s “political boss” will remain in jail until his trial because prosecutors say he will undoubtedly attempt to influence or intimidate witnesses. They assure that the crooked judge has no regard for the rule of law.
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