Former Clay County Circuit Judge R. Cletus Maricle has been permanently disbarred following a guilty plea of vote fraud. Former Judge Maricle was involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy attempting to control local politics via vote fraud. Seven other officials also pled guilty, including Democrat Election Commissioner Charles Wayne Jones.
This vote fraud spanned the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. The group, including Former Judge Maricle and Democrat Election Commissioner Jones, conspired together to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy votes in one of the poorest counties in the nation.
Former Judge Maricle was estimated to have led a scheme that used $400,000 to bribe 8,000 voters throughout the conspiracy time frame. An additional 150 voters are estimated to have had their vote stolen.
Court documents show
[T]hat Maricle used his position as judge to bribe officials, candidates for county offices, defendants in his court, and family members of defendants in his court.
In one instance, Maricle represented through others to a defendant in his court that if the defendant didn't help the criminal enterprise it would have a negative effect on his case. Once the defendant agreed to help he was released from custody by Maricle.
Further, the judge who sentenced Maricle commented that he was “involved in vote buying long before charges were even brought.”
The group of eight, also known as the “Clay Eight,” was convicted in March of 2010. In July of 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions due to evidence originally presented that at least several of the “Clay Eight” members were also involved in drug dealing. Any of the eight that have been convicted can be asked to be released from prison, but the government would then have the option to re-trying them on the charges of vote-buying and racketeering.