PIKEVILLE — Barring any unexpected developments, the federal vote-buying trial of former Martin Mayor Ruth Thomasine Robinson and three others will begin today, at the U.S. District Courthouse.
Robinson; her husband, James “Red” Robinson; her step-son, James S. Robinson; and former Martin city employee Johnny T. Moore were accused in an indictment handed down in December of conspiring to swing the November 2012 Martin mayor’s race in the former mayor’s favor, by paying for votes and by threatening public housing residents with eviction if they did not vote the right way or promising them better accommodations if they did.
A statement of the case filed by U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey lays out the alleged plot neatly: “This case charges the defendants with conspiring to violate the civil rights of citizens of Martin, Kentucky in relation to voting in an election. The United States contends that the defendants engaged in an organized effort to intimidate poor residents of Martin, Kentucky into voting a certain way using absentee ballots. In addition, various defendants are charged with paying voters to vote.”
All four defendants have filed statements denying all of the allegations.
Two others were also charged when the indictment was first issued. Charges against Ginger Michelle Halbert were dropped last month, after she agreed to plead guilty to charges in an unrelated case involving Social Security disability program fraud. Halbert was the only one of the six originally indicted not actually charged with vote-buying and had only been charged with conspiracy.
Former Mayor Robinson and her daughter, former Martin Community Center Director Rita Whicker, were both later convicted on all charges related to the disability scheme.
Halbert is scheduled to be sentenced June 3, while former Mayor Robinson and Whicker will be sentenced July 10.
Last week, former city employee Henry Mullins pleaded guilty to a single count of vote-buying. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 13.