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Appeals Court Dismisses Mail Fraud Conviction

A federal appeals court has thrown out the conviction and indictment of a former state senator from eastern Kentucky and his wife on mail fraud charges in a 2002 judicial race.

John Doug Hays, D-Pikeville, and his wife and campaign treasurer, Brenda, 50, were convicted of mail fraud in 2004 and sentenced to six months and three months in prison, respectively. They were acquitted on vote-fraud charges.

While they were free on appeal, however, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 31 decided in a separate but related case that the government cannot use the federal mail-fraud statute to prosecute vote-fraud cases.

That decision wiped out a 2004 mail-fraud conviction and indictment of Loren Glenn Turner, a Pikeville resident accused of being the "bag man" in elections for Ross Harris, a prominent eastern Kentucky political fundraiser who died June 24.

Harris was convicted of mail fraud and vote fraud in 2004, but his convictions also were dismissed, by law, upon his death.

The government's motion to dismiss charges against the Hayses was granted Oct. 5, court records show.

"Believe me, it's been a long ordeal," said Covington lawyer John A. West, Hays' attorney.

Hays, 62, whose law license has been suspended, is attending a seminary at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Hays said he hopes to retrieve his law license and become a full-time minister, but he has no plans to run for political office again.

Harris and Turner were indicted along with the Hayses in 2003 on charges they were involved in an illegal scheme to finance and buy votes in Hays' race in a 2002 campaign against Pike District Judge Darrel Mullins.

Hays lost by 3,000 votes, despite allegations that nearly two dozen $1,000 donations by so-called "straw" contributors for vote haulers had been provided by Harris.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor said the appeals court decision in the Turner case addressed only a jurisdictional issue. "It in no way exonerates the underlying conduct," he said.

Turner, 52, still faces additional vote-fraud charges in another case involving state Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Drift, in a 2000 election. Glenn Turner, a cousin, was Johnny Turner's treasurer.

Johnny Ray Turner is scheduled for trial Dec. 11. No trial date has been set for Glenn Turner.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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