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United States v. Thompson

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

October 4, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
FREDDY THOMPSON and DOUGLAS C. ADAMS, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motions for separate trials filed by Defendants Freddy Thompson (DE 1367) and Douglas C. Adams (DE 1411). For the following reasons, the motions will be denied.

The Defendants are charged with various violations of federal law, all of which are related to their alleged participation in a vote-buying and vote-stealing scheme in Clay County, Kentucky that lasted from 2002 to 2007 and encompassed three election cycles - 2002, 2004, and 2006. There are six other Defendants in this matter in addition to Adams and Thompson. Three of those Defendants - William B. Morris, Debra L. Morris, and Stanley Bowling - have pleaded guilty. The other three Defendants - Russell Cletus Maricle, William E. Stivers, and Charles Wayne Jones - are scheduled to be tried along with Adams and Thompson.

Trial of this matter is scheduled for November 4, 2013. This will be the second trial of these Defendants. Their first trial occurred before U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves. After seven weeks, the jury found all of the Defendants guilty of all counts. The Sixth Circuit vacated the Defendants' convictions finding that that the cumulative effect of various errors during the trial warranted a new trial. United States v. Adams, et al., 722 F.3d 788 (6th Cir. 2013). Judge Reeves recused from the matter and reassigned it to the undersigned. (DE 1311.) On retrial, the United States has represented that it will not proceed against the Defendants on certain charges in the indictment (Counts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 13) and those charges have been dismissed. (DE 1375).

Thus, the remaining counts and Defendants to be tried are:

Count Number Defendants Charged Charge Count 1 Maricle, Adams, Jones, Stivers, Conspiracy to violate RICO Thompson under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) Count 8 Maricle and Stivers Instructing a grand jury witness to testify falsely in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 Count 9 Thompson Giving false grand jury testimony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 Count 10 Maricle, Jones, Stivers, and Conspiracy to oppress voting Thompson rights of citizens under 18 U.S.C. § 241 Count 11 Maricle, Jones, Stivers, and Conspiracy to buy votes in Thompson violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 42 U.S.C. § 1973i Count 12 Maricle, Adams, Jones, Stivers, Forfeiture on RICO charge Thompson

Thompson and Adams are the only two Defendants who have asked for separate trials. Defendant Thompson served as Clay County Clerk throughout the relevant time period. He was also a member of the Board of Elections during the 2004 and 2006 elections. The indictment alleges that Thompson provided money to be distributed by election officers to buy votes and instructed election officers on how to steal votes by changing the votes cast by voters at the voting machines. As Clay County Clerk and election board member, Thompson was also responsible for certifying the accuracy of election results which he allegedly knew to be false. As the above chart demonstrates, Thompson is charged with four counts: conspiracy to violate RICO under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C. § 1503; conspiracy against voting rights under 18 U.S.C. § 241; and conspiracy to buy votes under 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 42 U.S.C. § 1973i.

Adams was the Clay County Superintendent of Schools during the relevant time period. The indictment alleges that Adams was a director of the criminal RICO enterprise, the Clay County Board of Elections, and was considered a political boss in Clay County. As a leader of the conspiracy, Adams is alleged to have exerted influence over the selection of precinct workers and the appointment of corrupt members of the board. The indictment also alleges that he recruited individuals to run for county offices on a slate that would benefit the conspiracy. Adams is charged with conspiracy to violate RICO under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d).

Neither Defendant argues that the Defendants and charges were improperly joined in the indictment under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8. Instead, they argue that the Court should exercise its discretion to order separate trials under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a). That rule provides that "[i]f the joinder of offenses or defendants in an indictment... appears to prejudice a defendant or the government, the court may order separate trials of counts, sever the defendants' trials, or provide any other relief that justice requires." Fed.R.Crim.P. 14(a). The Supreme Court has explained that:

[W]hen defendants properly have been joined under Rule 8(b), a district court should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.

Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 539 (1993).

Neither Thompson nor Adams has shown a serious risk that a joint trial will compromise any specific trial right or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about his guilt or innocence.

Thompson argues that he will be prejudiced by the evidence presented against what he deems to be his more culpable codefendants. Adams, who is charged only with the RICO violation, argues he will be prejudiced by evidence of obstruction of justice and vote stealing by his codefendants. He asks that the Court either sever his trial or order that the vote-stealing and obstruction-of-justice charges in counts 8, 9, and 10 of the indictment be tried separately. Thompson and Adams both argue that they will be prejudiced by the admission of audio recordings of conversations between their codefendants and cooperating individuals that they allege are relevant only ...


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