Former judge sent to prison

  A  former Clay County Circuit Court judge, described as the leader of a long running criminal enterprise that made millions of dollars and controlled politics in the county, was sentenced to 320 months in prison Thursday morning.

Cletus Maricle

A federal judge has sentenced a former Clay County Circuit Court judge to 320 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves sentenced 67 year-old Cletus Maricle for conspiring with other county officials in schemes that involved racketeering, money laundering and voter fraud. He was also sentenced for obstruction of justice.

At the sentencing, Stephen Smith, a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Maricle helped create a culture of lawlessness in the county that existed for three decades. Smith estimated that Maricle led a scheme that used $400,000 to bribe 8,000 voters during the course of the conspiracy. In addition, Smith added that 150 voters had their votes stolen.

Judge Reeves commented that Maricle was involved in vote buying long before charges in this case were even brought.

Maricle headed up the Clay County board of elections that controlled the outcomes of the primary and general elections for the years 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Court documents also show that Maricle used his position as judge to bribe officials, candidates for county offices, defendants in his court, and family members of defendants in his court. Maricle served as Circuit Court Judge from 1991 until 2007.

Last March, a jury convicted Maricle and seven others for their roles in the schemes. The jury also found that the eight defendants were jointly liable for $3.4 million, which represented the salaries and contracts they were able to get as a result of the conspiracies.

Former Clay County magistrate Stanley Bowling was sentenced Thursday afternoon.

He received 15 years and 10 months in prison.

An assistant U.S. attorney described Bowling as a "crucial cog" in the conspiracy to fix elections.

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