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Fourteen indicted in Appalachia election fraud probe (pork rinds, beers, smokes - 1,000 counts)
Kingsport Times-News ^ | 2/03/06 | STEPHEN IGO

Posted on 03/03/2006 5:41:20 PM PST by Libloather

Fourteen indicted in Appalachia election fraud probe
Friday, March 03, 2006
By STEPHEN IGO
Times-News

WISE - Fourteen individuals, including the mayor/town manager of Appalachia, a town councilman, and two law enforcement officials, were indicted by a Wise County grand jury on multiple counts stemming from an alleged conspiracy to conduct election fraud during the 2004 town elections.

The indictments show the investigation hasn't been just about pork rinds, Special Prosecutor Tim McAfee said during a press conference at the Wise County Courthouse. The investigation into allegations of voter fraud evolved from early reports of attempted vote buying before town elections that reportedly involved items like bags of pork rinds, packs of cigarettes, and six-packs of beer.

While the entire affair may have been sparked by rumors of "votes being sold for pork rinds," said McAfee, "I think it would be a fair statement to say it is not about pork rinds, and never was about pork rinds."

The grand jury handed down a total of nearly 1,000 felony counts leveled against the 14 individuals on 269 alleged violations of law ranging from conspiracy, to tampering with absentee ballots, to forgery, to illegal seizure of private property by law enforcement officials for their own personal use. Drug trafficking by some individuals has also been alleged.

McAfee said the 300-page indictment document and the investigation details "a pattern of misconduct" before, during and after the May 4, 2004, town elections that boils down to "corruption" that permeated Town Hall.

Those indicted include Appalachia Mayor/Town Manager Ben Cooper; Town Councilman Owen Anderson "Andy" Sharrett III; Sharrett's father, Appalachia Parks and Recreation Director Owen Anderson "Dude" Sharrett Jr.; Sharrett's brother, Adam Brody Sharrett; wife to Dude and mother of Andy and Adam Sharrett, Belinda Carolyn Sharrett, employed in a clerk position in Town Hall; Dude Sharrett's aunt, Betty Chloe Sharrett Bolling; Dude Sharrett's brother, Kevin Lee Sharrett of Indiana; and Dennis Martin "Boogie" Sharrett, another of Dude Sharrett's brothers.

Kevin Lee Sharrett is alleged to have brought illicit drugs from Indiana into the Appalachia area.

Appalachia's chief law enforcement officer, Benjamin Graham Surber, has been charged with being a part of the election fraud conspiracy as well as occupying a sham position, collecting pay for no work. McAfee alleged Thursday that Surber's "job" was basically to collect a paycheck so Cooper could maintain direct control over the police department.

Appalachia Police Officer Mike Baber is charged with seizing private property for his personal benefit.

"You don't keep TVs for your personal use," McAfee said.

McAfee alleged that on at least one occasion Baber seized property without a search warrant, and the victims of "police raids" may have been flirting with the shady side of the law themselves and were reluctant to complain.

Don Houston Estridge, who worked as a mail carrier in the Appalachia Post Office, is charged with intercepting and diverting absentee ballots so they could be doctored with forged signatures and false statements then returned to the Wise County Voter Registrar's office as legitimate ballots.

Charges against three women who reside in Big Stone Gap include allegations they signed false requests for assistance at the polls so their votes could be cast for the slate of candidates, headed up by Cooper, favored by the alleged conspirators.

Absentee ballots were marked by persons other than the intended voters, McAfee said, and "many (absentee ballots) never saw their intended recipient."

McAfee said an arraignment hearing for all 14 individuals has been scheduled in Wise County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. on March 14. He said authorities will likely contact each of the indicted individuals over the next week or so to report voluntarily to the sheriff's department for processing, and figured most if not all will prefer that to being picked up by deputies and placed under arrest. McAfee said he expected many of the individuals will probably be set free under personal recognizance pending the arraignment hearing.

McAfee and Assistant Special Prosecutor Greg Stewart said the outcome of the 2004 town elections could have "mathematically" been altered as a result of the alleged conspiracy, counting the 55 or so absentee ballots thus far in question. There were 585 votes cast, including 103 absentee ballots - far more than a typical election in Appalachia - with seven candidates for three available seats on the Town Council.

Cooper and his running mates of Sharrett and Eddie Golloway ousted longtime Mayor Gary Bush to seize control of Town Hall. Golloway is not a party to any of the indictments.

McAfee said Thursday's indictments do not signal the close of the investigation. He said the indictments merely signal the end of "Chapter One," and the probe is ongoing.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: 000; 1; almost; appalachia; beer; beers; counts; election; fourteen; fraud; indicted; mayor; pork; probe; rinds; smokes; virginia; voterfraud
Mayor of small Virginia town hit with numerous counts

WISE, Va. A small-town mayor in Virginia faces some 240 charges for alleged election fraud and corruption.

He's one of 14 people charged in what prosecutors say was a scheme to take over the town council of Wise, Virginia. Among those indicted were two police officers.

Prosecutors say once the schemers took power, the police department engaged in drug trafficking, and money and personal possessions were illegally seized from residents.

To make sure they won the election in 2004, prosecutors say the defendants offered town residents cigarettes, alcohol, and even pork rinds for their votes.

A special prosecutor says Mayor Ben Cooper -- who is also town manager and runs the police department -- faces "more time than he could possibly serve."

Wise is a town of about two-thousand in southwest Virginia.

http://www.klfy.com/Global/story.asp?S=4578346

1 posted on 03/03/2006 5:41:23 PM PST by Libloather
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To: Liz; Howlin

It must be nonpartisan fraud...


2 posted on 03/03/2006 5:44:23 PM PST by Libloather (I maybe a little off. I've got a touch of that bird flu...)
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To: Libloather; Congressman Billybob

Oh, sure. Up there in the mountains? Right.


3 posted on 03/03/2006 5:45:58 PM PST by Howlin ("Quick, he's bleeding! Is there a <strike>doctor</strike> reporter in the house?")
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To: Libloather

No mention of party affiliation..


4 posted on 03/03/2006 5:47:37 PM PST by cardinal4 (The 9-11 Commission, America's National Shame)
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To: Libloather

"It must be nonpartisan fraud..."

Suffice to say that if it was Republicans, it would be the New York Times that was cited, followed by a full-court press on all networks.


5 posted on 03/03/2006 5:48:54 PM PST by strategofr (Hillary stole 1000+ secret FBI files on DC movers & shakers, Hillary's Secret War, Poe, p. xiv)
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To: Howlin

Those indicted include Appalachia Mayor/Town Manager Ben Cooper; Town Councilman Owen Anderson "Andy" Sharrett III; Sharrett's father, Appalachia Parks and Recreation Director Owen Anderson "Dude" Sharrett Jr.; Sharrett's brother, Adam Brody Sharrett; wife to Dude and mother of Andy and Adam Sharrett, Belinda Carolyn Sharrett, employed in a clerk position in Town Hall; Dude Sharrett's aunt, Betty Chloe Sharrett Bolling; Dude Sharrett's brother, Kevin Lee Sharrett of Indiana; and Dennis Martin "Boogie" Sharrett, another of Dude Sharrett's brothers.


Kevin Lee Sharrett is alleged to have brought illicit drugs from Indiana into the Appalachia area.

Einstein said it was all relative!


6 posted on 03/03/2006 5:59:45 PM PST by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: Libloather

Hehehehehehehehee!!!


7 posted on 03/03/2006 6:07:39 PM PST by lilylangtree
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To: Libloather

Good ole boys doin thar thang.......keep it small and controll it all.


8 posted on 03/03/2006 6:09:17 PM PST by TUX
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To: cardinal4

No mention of party affiliation..



I think there was the mention of the Sharrett party some where in the thread......


9 posted on 03/03/2006 6:16:27 PM PST by deport
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To: Howlin; cardinal4; strategofr; tet68; lilylangtree; TUX
The 63-year-old mayor still lives with his mother. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Critics say town's mayor rules with an iron fist
By Laurence Hammack
981-3239

With much of Appalachia's power structure under indictment Thursday, attention turned naturally to Ben Cooper.

As mayor and acting town manager, Cooper is the hands-on head honcho of Appalachia, a coal-mining town of 1,800 that sits less than 10 miles from the Kentucky border.

He presides over town council meetings, shows up at the scene of water main breaks and automobile accidents, and is often seen cruising the streets in his town-issued red Bronco.

He was also seen at the polls during the town elections of May 4, 2004 -- when, according to indictments returned by a Wise County grand jury, he cheated democracy.

The 63-year-old mayor was charged Thursday with about 240 counts of election fraud, including theft of election documents, violating absentee voting laws and making false statements on election forms.

Cooper's critics see the charges as a testament to the retired military man's top-down style of running the town.

"I think he's obsessed with power," said Rick Bowman, a former member of town council. "Everything he's gotten into he's wanted to control and to run."

Cooper could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Thursday's indictments were not the first time Cooper's pursuit of town duties have landed him in legal trouble.

In February 2004, Cooper had a run-in with town manager Vern Haefele at town hall.

Haefele claimed he was leaving his office when Cooper accosted him and demanded a copy of a fire marshal's inspection report on the town civic center, according to an account published in the Coalfield Progress.

A shoving match ensued, and each man charged the other with assault.

Haefele also swore out a felony abduction charge against Cooper, claiming the then-council member made him a prisoner in his own office.

When the case went to court several months later, both men agreed to drop the charges.

But all was not forgiven, it seems. In the town elections that May, Cooper devoted much of his campaign for mayor to a town reorganization in which "getting rid of Vern was the main thing," Bowman said.

When Cooper and his slate of candidates won an election that now appears tainted in light of the criminal charges, Haefele was fired at the first meeting of the new town council.

Cooper was then appointed acting town manager, a position he still holds today.

The May 2004 elections gave Cooper his second term as mayor. During his first term in 2002, he was charged with interfering with Appalachia fire and rescue vehicles at the scene of an accident.

A General District Court judge dismissed the charge, which was brought by fire officials who complained that Cooper regularly followed them to the scene of fender-benders and fires in an apparent effort to monitor their response time and performance.

"He wants full control of the town," said Robert Anderson, who at the time was fire chief and often clashed with Cooper. "He wants to micromanage everything."

After spending most of his Air Force career in Florida, Cooper returned to his native Appalachia about seven years ago and quickly became involved in civic affairs, according to longtime town resident Emma Jane James, who grew up near the Cooper homestead.

Now divorced and living with his mother, Cooper seems to have both the time and the inclination to make running a small town his full-time job.

"He makes the rules," James said, "and everybody is expected to fall in with what he says."

http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/55118

10 posted on 03/03/2006 6:27:43 PM PST by Libloather (I maybe a little off. I've got a touch of that bird flu...)
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To: strategofr
Suffice to say that if it was Republicans, it would be the New York Times that was cited, followed by a full-court press on all networks.




The "drive-by" LSM would have headlines painted the corruption of the wast right wing republicans all over the pages, but here NO party affiliation!??! Hello???
No wonder more and more people get their news from the new alternative media, because the old monopolistic fraud media will soon be total irrelevant, including guys like "temper tantrum, drunk" david gregory!!!
11 posted on 03/03/2006 7:28:19 PM PST by danamco
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To: Libloather; EDINVA; iceskater; xyz123; Mudboy Slim; Corin Stormhands; jla; Flora McDonald; ...

~yawn~

Vote fraud in Southwest Virginia. Wake me when something new happens.

I haven't worked a campaign out there in years, but S.O.P. used to be that all the rat had to do was to tell the unions how many votes he needed to carry the county. The union bosses checked off names at the polls.


12 posted on 03/03/2006 9:42:38 PM PST by Corin Stormhands (http://www.cafepress.com/liberaliTEES)
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To: Corin Stormhands

Corin, the UMW involved in election fraud? Nooooooooo. Really? They actually could take time out of beating up scabs to engage in election fraud? :)

}:-)4


13 posted on 03/03/2006 10:39:57 PM PST by Moose4 ("I will shoulder my musket and brandish my sword/In defense of this land and the word of the Lord")
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To: Libloather

Looks as if Cooper graduated from the CAMM........(Jimmy)Carter Academy of Micro Management............you know what I mean, Vern?


14 posted on 03/03/2006 10:55:48 PM PST by AwesomePossum
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To: Corin Stormhands
Yee HAW!!!! Got me a big ol' mess o' porkrinds, and some beer ta warsh it down with!!!


15 posted on 03/04/2006 6:13:29 AM PST by Darnright (Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.)
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To: Darnright

~snif~

Makes me miss muh fam'ly...


16 posted on 03/04/2006 7:01:43 AM PST by Corin Stormhands (http://www.cafepress.com/liberaliTEES)
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To: Libloather

but that this were limited only to Wise


17 posted on 03/04/2006 7:42:27 AM PST by EDINVA
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To: TUX

Sounds like Lost Angeles only they hand out tacos and beer.


18 posted on 03/04/2006 7:44:57 AM PST by Vaduz (and just think how clean the cities would become again.)
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To: Libloather

Anybody who doesn't agree that something like this has a huge chilling effect on voter fraud in a 300 mile radius just aint paying attention, and you know what I'll talkin' about! A few months back there was an FBI voter fraud sting in West Virginia. That will help us against the bigoted old bastard. These to cases together will do wonders for the honesty meter of lots of elections in both states for a few cycles.


19 posted on 03/04/2006 11:31:04 AM PST by jmaroneps37 (John Spencer is the warrior we have been waiting for.We can trust him with our future.)
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