Eastern Ky. County Attorney First To Trial In Vote Fraud Scheme

OWINGSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A county attorney in eastern Kentucky was one of several people involved in a vote-buying scheme that affected elections in two county offices, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors explained an alleged scheme to rig the 2006 primary election in Bath County on Tuesday during opening arguments of the trial of County Attorney Donald "Champ" Maze.

In that primary, more than 520 Bath County residents voted with an absentee ballot. That's more than double the number of absentee
ballots cast in 2002. Of those 520 voters, more than 240 filled out forms saying they needed assistance and brought people into the voting booth with them. Among those who needed assistance were a beautician and a hazardous materials trucker. Both said on voter
assistance documents that they were blind, Assistant U.S. Attorney
Ken Taylor said Tuesday.

Maze's lawyers said Maze frequently gave loans to clients and others who were down on their luck. The money he gave two people was to help them get through a rough patch - it wasn't to buy votes, his lawyers said.

Federal authorities have charged 10 people, including Bath County Judge-Executive Walter Shrout and his main opponent in May, Michael Swartz.

Maze, who is charged with vote-buying, obstruction of justice and lying to a federal grand jury, is the first Bath County defendant to go on trial.

Shrout is scheduled to go on trial in March; Swartz has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to buy votes.

Maze and Shrout won the election, and both are still in office.

Last May, observers started calling federal and state authorities with concerns about what was going on in the courthouse in Owingsville, Taylor said.

One woman, Tammy Manly, was buying votes for Swartz, her sometime-boyfriend, and she also told authorities that Maze paid her to get people to vote for him, federal prosecutors said.

Manly, who was indicted in July on vote-buying related charges, helped federal authorities build a case against Maze, Taylor said.

Manly agreed to wear a wire and recorded Maze telling her what to say to a federal grand jury and to deny that she received money from anyone beside Swartz to buy votes.

Maze's lawyers say Maze was acting as Manly's attorney when he offered her legal advice and was not coaching a federal witness.

It was Maze and his wife, Bath Circuit Judge Beth Maze, who tipped off the attorney general's office and contacted Taylor with their concerns about possible vote-buying before the May primary, said John Roach, one of Maze's lawyers.

The trial is expected to last more than a week.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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