UPDATE 3:38 p.m. 12/1/16:
The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky released that the three convicted in this case were sentenced as follows:
Gary "Rooster" Risner – 33 months & more than 500 hours of community service
Tami Jo Risner – 12 months and a day
Larry Shepherd – 30 months & $20,000 fine
PIKEVILLE – Three convicted earlier this year on vote-buying charges are scheduled to be sentenced today in federal court.
In August, Magoffin County Magistrate District #1 Gary “Rooster” Risner, Tami Jo Risner and Larry Shepherd were found guilty of conspiring to commit vote-buying in the 2014 primary and general elections.
A federal jury released the following verdict on August 12: Gary "Rooster" Risner was found guilty of counts 1, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. Count 1 was the conspiracy charge and the rest of the 16 counts of the indictment reference individual votes allegedly bought. Risner was found not guilty of county 13. Tami Jo Risner was found guilty of counts 1, 6 and 7, and not guilty of counts 4 and 5 (which revolved around a deceased person who had allegedly sold her vote and her boyfriend). Larry Shepherd was found guilty of count 1, the conspiracy charge, and not guilty of count 3.
Prior to the trial, defendant Scotty McCarty took a plea agreement, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge in exchange for testimony, and has since been sentenced to three years of probation, three months of home detention and a $500 fine.
The only other defendant in the case, Mason Daniels, was found not guilty at the end of the four-day jury trial.
The three convicted in August are set for sentencing on Thursday, December 1 at the United States Courthouse in Pikeville.
Leading up to the sentencing, last month Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth R. Taylor filed a memorandum, stating that Gary “Rooster” Risner and Larry Shepherd should receive the maximum sentencing for their charges.
Taylor stated in the memo that in 2011 Randy Salyer was convicted of vote buying for Magoffin County Judge Executive Dr. Charles Hardin, and the candidates Hardin approved.
“Salyer dutifully went to prison without cooperating against Hardin and was rewarded with a plum job as an assistant county judge executive. His wife has been an employee for Hardin for years,” Taylor wrote. “Defendants Gary Risner and Larry Shepherd are prominent members of the same long-lived conspiracy. Like Salyer before them, they soldier on for Hardin and probably will be similarly rewarded for their silence. This Court should consider these defendants’ conduct in the context of that overarching conspiracy, and its effect on the honest citizens of Magoffin County, when determining the appropriate sentence in this case.”
Taylor went over the overwhelming evidence brought up in the trial against Gary “Rooster” Risner, including a video in which he discussed buying votes, and asked that Risner be sentenced at the top of the guideline range.
Taylor explained that he believes Tami Jo Risner is in a different category as Gary Risner and Shepherd, stating, “Her involvement was more a reflection of her substance abuse and impressionability than a desire to corrupt the electorate. Still, the conduct is serious and merits a guideline sentence. The United States defers to the discretion of the Court as to where within the guidelines her sentence should fall.”
Regarding Larry Shepherd, Taylor referenced co-defendant Scotty McCarty’s testimony against Shepherd, as well as statistics of absentee voting vs. Election Day voting, stating that the absentee process was “tainted by vote buying” and that could not be effective without the aid of Shepherd at the courthouse.
“For the reasons set out above in relation to Gary Risner, Shepherd should receive a sentence at the top of the guideline range,” Taylor wrote. “He is an entrenched member of the Hardin-lead Magoffin election crime enterprise. His sentence should reflect the seriousness of the offense, in all of its historical context.”
Gary “Rooster” Risner’s attorney, Michael Curtis, also filed a memo last week, stating that the history and characteristics of Risner must also be considered during sentencing.
“No matter what the government says about Mr. Risner, the presentence report reflects a man who lost his daughter who was murdered in 2005, leaving three children, all who have lived with Mr. Risner and have been raised by Mr. Risner. This in and of itself shows that indeed there are good qualities in everyone and for a man to raise his grandchildren without the benefit of even the father of these contributing to the care-taking responsibilities says a lot about his character.”
Curtis wrote that he is not surprised by the government’s request for sentencing, but states, “However, a more appropriate sentence should be somewhere between the low and the high end of the guidelines with a 30-month sentence would serve and meet the requirements that the court must consider under 18 U.S.C. § 3553.”
Gary “Rooster” Risner is set for sentencing at 9 a.m., Tami Jo Risner at 10 a.m., and Larry Shepherd at 1 p.m. at the United States Courthouse in Pikeville.
The Independent will release information regarding the sentencing as soon as possible on www.salyersvilleindependent.com, as well as on Facebook (@SInewspaper) and Twitter (@SalyersvilleInd).