Guilty verdicts in vote fraud case

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A Salyersville man was convicted in federal court on Tuesday of buying votes in the 2010 Magoffin general election.

Randall E. Salyer, 54, was found guilty by the jury of two counts of vote buying and acquitted on the other two charges.

The general election was held in part to select a candidate for the office of the United States Senate which made the case eligible for federal prosecution.

Salyer was indicted in February of this year.

The jury of 12, 14 counting the two alternates, heard testimony from six witnesses claiming to have sold their votes to Salyer, as well from key figures, such as Attorney General Investigator John Emit Thompson, County Court Clerk Renee Shepherd, Patricia Trusty, FBI Rudolph Copley, Fire Chief Paul Howard, Larry “Bubby” Carpenter, former Sheriff Randall “Bob” Jordan and Carl Christian.

While the witnesses testifying they sold their votes did admit to past drug problems, when asked by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor if they had any doubts that they had sold their votes, they all said they were positive they had sold their votes to him.

Emit Thompson testified that his investigations indicate that the witnesses he interviewed consistently stated they had sold their votes.

Renee Shepherd gave the jury background into the absentee voting processes and identified the witnesses’ absentee voting applications and envelopes that indicated they had been voted into the system. She said that, while having 1,136 absentee voters out of 9,839 registered voters is a high percentage, it is not abnormally high for Magoffin County.

Patricia Trusty, who is also being charged with vote-buying, testified that she was the “go-between” for Penny Adams. She said she sold her vote to Salyer and then told people she could get them money for their votes, as well.

Mandy Dye, one of the witnesses testifying she had sold her vote, said she went into the clerk’s office and Salyer was back behind the counter. According to her testimony, he motioned for her to come to the corner and told her that if she brought the ballot to him when she received it in the mail he could pay her.

When Dye could not reach Salyer, Patricia Trusty contacted her and offered more money for the ballot. Trusty picked up the ballot and paid her for it. Salyer stopped by afterwards and she told him she had already given it to Trusty.

Donnie Arnett testified that he, too, had sold his vote to Salyer, and told his cousin, Kim Bain and her now-husband Joel Watkins, they could sell their votes to Salyer, as well. The three testified to selling their votes, as did Megan Howard and Joshua Whitaker.

Randall “Bob” Jordan testified that he had not threatened the witnesses and he acted in accordance to his job duties of assisting in Thompson’s investigations.

Curtis asked Paul Howard and Larry “Bubby” Carpenter if they had been interviewed or questioned about the Attorney General complaints against them from the election, but both said they had not even been notified of the allegations.

Paul Howard testified that while acting as challenger at the absentee voting machine in the courthouse, he did not see Salyer at the courthouse, however, Taylor brought up that Salyer’s testimony in the civil trial in January indicated that he did frequent the courthouse to visit his wife, who works for Magoffin County Judge-Executive Dr. Charles Hardin.
Howard responded by saying the voting area was in an area where he may not have seen Salyer come and go.

Carl Christian, the investigator for the defendant, testified, as well, but confirmed that during his investigation the witnesses consistently told him the same thing they had told Thompson: that they had sold their votes to Salyer. He said they indicated they were afraid of Jordan, however, but he could not produce his notes for the court to review.

When asking for a guilty verdict, Taylor told the jury, “In the grand scheme of things, this is a simple case. It is easy to follow and easy to understand, but it’s a very important case. Vote buying is a horrible corruption of [the voting] process and an absolute corruption of the foundation of our government.”

Curtis followed up with an old adage, “Truth is one constant. It never changes. It’s always the same, but a lie has many forms, many shapes and is constantly changing,” referring to the witness testimony discrepancies from their initial interviews with Thompson.

Curtis said Salyer had no motive and asked the jury to look at the witnesses’ credibility before offering a judgment.

After looking at the evidence and hearing the two days of testimony, the jury deliberated for three hours and came back with a verdict of guilty on two counts, not guilty of the other two counts.

While selling a vote is illegal, the government can offer those who testify against someone else in a criminal matter immunity from those charges.

The investigation was conducted by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth R. Taylor.

Salyer is set for sentencing on November 9, where he faces a maximum of 5 years imprisonment, $250,000 fine and three years supervised release per count.