Friday, October 17, 2003

Bond denied for Knott Co. men convicted of vote fraud

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - A federal judge has refused to release Knott County Judge-Executive Donnie Newsome and supporter Willard Smith from jail.

The two had asked to be released on bond after their convictions earlier this month on charges of election fraud in a trial that was marred by threats against witnesses.

U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves concluded in an order filed Thursday morning that the pair would be a danger to the community if released from the Pike County Detention Center.

Defense attorneys had called a string of witnesses to testify in a hearing last week that Newsome and Smith wouldn't be dangers to the community if they were freed.

"After considering the evidence and testimony presented, the court is unable to find by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants do not pose a danger to the community," Reeves said in his order.

Newsome was convicted of one count of conspiracy to buy votes and two counts of buying votes. He faces three to 15 years in prison. Smith was convicted of one count of conspiracy to buy votes and four counts of buying votes. He faces five to 25 years in prison. Sentencing for both men is set for Jan. 5 in Pikeville.

Reeves said credible testimony was presented during the election fraud trial that witnesses were threatened. One said he was told he would be a walking dead man if he testified. Another said she was told she would have to answer to police if she took the witness stand.

FBI agents were called in to provide security in and around the federal courthouse in Pikeville during the trial.

Stephen Owens, a Pikeville lawyer representing Newsome, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Smith's lawyer, Eldred Adams Jr. of Louisa, declined to comment Thursday morning because he hadn't yet seen the judge's order.

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