Updated 2 years ago
A former Clay County circuit court judge described as the leader of a long running criminal enterprise that made millions of dollars and controlled politics in the county was sentenced Thursday to more than 26 years in prison by a federal judge.
U.S. District Court Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced Cletus Maricle, 67, to 320 months in prison for conspiring with other county officials in schemes that involved racketeering, money laundering and voter fraud. He was also sentenced for obstruction of justice.
At the sentencing, Stephen Smith, a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Maricle helped create a culture of lawlessness in the county that existed for three decades.
Smith estimated that Maricle led a scheme that used $400,000 to bribe 8,000 voters during the course of the conspiracy. In addition, Smith added that 150 voters had their votes stolen.
Judge Reeves commented that Maricle was involved in vote buying long before charges in this case were even brought.
Maricle headed up the Clay County board of elections that controlled the outcomes of the primary and general elections for the years 2002, 2004 and 2006.
Court documents also show that 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.
According to court records, Maricle promised one female election officer a job and to help with her brother's case, who was a defendant in Maricle's court, if she promised to participate in the criminal enterprise by stealing votes as an election officer.
Also, witnesses testified Maricle assisted Kenneth Day, a convicted drug dealer, in fixing a jury that returned a multi-million dollar verdict in favor of Day.
Maricle served as circuit court judge from 1991 until 2007.
Last March, a jury convicted Maricle and seven others for their roles in the schemes. The jury also found that the eight defendants were jointly liable for $3.4 million which represented the salaries and contracts they were able to get as a result of the conspiracies.
Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Elizabeth A. Fries, Special Agent in Charge of FBI, and Christopher R. Pikelis, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service jointly made the announcement today after the sentencing.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the IRS. The U.S. Attorney's Office was represented in the case by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Smith and Jason Parman.