- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

FRANKFORT, KY. (AP) - A judge, school superintendent and county clerk in southeastern Kentucky have been indicted on charges they extorted money from political candidates so they could bribe voters in a scheme to rig several elections, authorities said Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said charges include racketeering, bribery, extortion and voter fraud against Clay County Circuit Court Judge Russell Cletus Maricle, school superintendent Douglas C. Adams, Clay County Clerk Freddy Thompson and others.

The investigation began after voting irregularities were reported during the 2006 elections. A statement from the federal prosecutor’s office claims the officials tried to rig federal, state and local elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 in Clay County, about 170 miles southeast of Louisville.

Prosecutors claim a group led by Maricle and Adams, who were essentially “political bosses,” recruited a slate of candidates to run for certain offices and then tried to rig elections in their favor. They also tried to recruit members of the local elections board so they might avoid an investigation.

It was unclear how much money was involved in the alleged scheme, and exactly how long it may have been going on.

According to the indictment, Democratic election commissioner Charles Wayne Jones and election officer William E. Stivers helped extort money from candidates. In some cases, candidates were apparently asked to pool money so votes could be bought.

Thompson, the county clerk, allegedly provided money for election officers to buy votes. Thompson also told election officers how to change votes at the machines, according to the indictment.

Some voters were bribed at the voting booths. Some officials told voters to use booths incorrectly, so that they could go back and change the tallies, the indictment says.

William and Debra Morris are also charged as associates who helped dish out money to buy votes.

Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who is chairman of the Kentucky Board of Elections, said the allegations would be a “great injustice” to Clay County voters if true.

“We hope that the judicial system will work expeditiously on this matter,” Grayson said, “so that the dark cloud of suspicion hanging over these elections will not affect future elections.”

Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Lexington, said the officials are expected to make their initial appearances in court on Friday in London, Ky.

A message left at a number listed for William Morris was not returned, and there was no listing for Debra Morris. Stivers and Adams did not have listed phone numbers. A number for Jones rang unanswered.

A call made to Maricle’s office led to a recording on another judge’s phone line and was not immediately returned. A number listed for Maricle was disconnected.

Leigh Anne Hiatt, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said in an e-mail that Maricle was a senior judge, but did not know his immediate status.

Thompson’s number was unlisted. Beverly Gray, the deputy clerk in Thompson’s office, declined to comment. An e-mail message to Thompson seeking comment was not returned.


Associated Press Writers Jeffrey McMurray in Lexington, Ky., and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.

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