Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ky. election fraud trial starts

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

LONDON, Ky. - A federal prosecutor painted an eastern Kentucky businessman as the kingpin in a scheme to buy votes from impoverished mountain residents during his opening statement Wednesday in a federal election fraud trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor said Ross Harris illegally funneled money into a 2002 judicial campaign in an unsuccessful effort to defeat the man he blamed for a sex scandal involving one of his friends.

"When money gets into elections, it can corrupt and give one man many, many votes," Taylor said in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Larry Mackey told the jury that Harris did nothing wrong. The only financial contribution Harris made to John Doug Hays' campaign for Pike County district judge was a legal donation of $1,000, said Mackey, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Indianapolis.

Mackey said it doesn't make sense that a successful businessman with an unblemished record would veer into criminal conduct because of a sex scandal that didn't involve him.

"What you have here is an implausible motive," Mackey said.

Taylor contends that Harris illegally funneled $40,000 into Hays' unsuccessful campaign after a sex scandal resulted in the resignation of Pike County Circuit Judge Charles Lowe Jr.

Taylor said Harris and Lowe were close friends.

Lowe resigned last year rather than face possible removal by the Judicial Conduct Commission for a sexual relationship with a woman involved in an adoption and child custody dispute in his courtroom.

Taylor said Harris was so angered by the scandal that he tried to lash out at the woman, Debbi Hylton-Mullins, and her husband, Pike County District Judge Darrel Mullins, who was seeking re-election.

Hylton-Mullins, a former Pike County trial commissioner, claimed she had a five-year affair with Lowe in exchange for favorable treatment in the adoption case. She reported the relationship, which ended prior to her marriage to Mullins, to the Judicial Conduct Commission in a letter in October 2002.

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