Saturday, June 7, 2003

New indictment adds to election charges

Alleged crimes now include mail fraud

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

PIKEVILLE - A new federal indictment returned Friday in Lexington added a mail fraud charge against several eastern Kentuckians accused of improprieties in last year's election.

Former state Sen. John Doug Hays; his wife, Brenda Hays; and Pike County businessman Ross Harris were among 10 people charged with conspiring to commit mail fraud, which involved mailing an alleged false report to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Prosecutors will ask the court to proceed under the new indictment, which would nullify a similar one returned in April, said Wanda Roberts, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Gregory Van Tatenhove.

Prosecutors had sought the new indictment as a means to move the trial to U.S. District Court in Frankfort because of concerns that they might not be able to get a fair trial in eastern Kentucky.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth R. Taylor said in a court document that the defendants are so influential and well known that prospective jurors could be improperly influenced.

Defense attorneys claim that federal prosecutors wanted to move the case to central Kentucky because cultural bias against Appalachians will play in their favor.

"It's a prejudice that exists in America," said Prestonsburg attorney Earl "Mickey" McGuire, who is representing two of the campaign workers involved in the case. "I will try to get it moved back to eastern Kentucky."

One new name, Loren Glenn Turner, an employee of a Harris company, appeared on Friday's indictment. Others carried over from the initial indictment were Tom Varney, Taylor Slone, David Dotson, Jerry Joe Dotson, Bobby Roy Justice and Jacky Darrell Smith.

Most of them also are charged with paying $50 to voters in Pike County to vote for Hays, who was running for district judge last year.

The indictment alleges that Harris, a coal operator and lawyer, donated heavily to the Hays campaign. In one instance, John Doug Hays disguised an illegal $20,000 contribution from Harris by putting some of the cash in a personal checking account, then immediately writing a check for the amount to the campaign, according to the indictment. That was done, the indictment alleges, to give the false appearance that Hays had donated personal funds to the campaign.

The case file under the old indictment already had grown heavy with legal documents.

Scott C. Cox and Michael Mazzoli, attorneys for Ross, said in their latest motion that vote hauling is legal under state law and that it was approved by the Kentucky Supreme Court as early as 1917.

In addition, the attorneys said state law imposes no limit on the amount that a campaign can spend for voter transportation.

Cox and Mazzoli, in a motion seeking to have a charge against Harris dismissed, argued he should not be criminally punished for engaging in conduct that is legal.

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