Thursday, May 27, 2004

Beer- for-vote case goes to jury

He was joking, insists accused

By Travis Gettys
Enquirer contributor

LUDLOW - A beer-for-votes case that made national news last month will go before a grand jury Friday.

Police say Ed Lucas of Ludlow offered to buy a 12-pack of beer for 18-year-old Tim Grogan, a student at Ludlow High School, in exchange for his vote against a proposed school tax, which voters rejected in March.

Lucas said he made the comment in jest as he joked with neighbors about the proposed tax increase, known as the "nickel growth tax" because it would have raised property taxes by 5 cents for each $100 of assessed value.

"In today's society, you gotta watch what you say," Lucas said. "It's sad."

Court records show that Lucas threatened to slash Grogans's tires and egg his house if he voted for the tax increase.

Up to 5 years in prison

Lucas, 40, is charged with making or receiving expenditures for vote, a class D felony that carries a penalty of one to five years in prison.

Several business owners also complained that Lucas asked them to remove signs supporting the tax, which landed on the ballot after a petition drive.

Additional charges could be filed against Lucas or others who may have tried to improperly influence the outcome of the election, which divided residents of the historic river town, said Ludlow Police Chief Ray Murphy.

"There's still an ongoing investigation, and I don't know how that's going to pan out," said Murphy.

Lucas will not be charged with violating underage drinking laws, because he did not supply any beer to Grogan, said Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson.

"It's not against the law to offer to supply alcoholic beverages to a minor, it's only (illegal) to do so," Edmondson said.

After the measure failed, a group of parents set up an account at Home Savings Bank in Ludlow, where supporters of the tax increase, which state law limited to school construction only, could make a contribution.

"After the levy failed, I thought, 'Why don't the people who voted yes donate their $45?' " said Jackie Latham, who helped start the group, Friends of Ludlow.

Out of proportion

The beer-for-votes case showed up in "strange-but-true" news columns across the country, and Lucas said the attention embarrassed him.

"I thought it was in poor taste," he said.

"It was blown way out of proportion."

Lucas said he intends to remain involved politically in Ludlow, where he moved from Covington four years ago, but his activism will likely take a different form.

"Now I know not to say nothing jokingly about beer," Lucas said.

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