USA v. Turner
Eastern District of Kentucky at Lexington
Criminal: Federal Mail Fraud and Vote Buying
JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge. This appeal requires us to consider the application of the federal mail fraud statute to a case involving state election fraud. Defendant-appellant Loren Glenn Turner was indicted on charges arising from his involvement in two Kentucky state elections. The first was the May 2002 election of Donnie Newsome as Knott County Judge Executive. The second was the November 2002 election for Pike County District Judge, involving candidate John Doug Hays. The alleged election fraud included the use of “vote hauling” checks to buy votes unlawfully;1 the use of “straw contributors” who fraudulently donated money to the Hays campaign on behalf of one of Hays’s prominent backers so as to avoid Kentucky’s maximum individual contribution limits; the direct payment of cash to voters on election day to buy votes; the structuring of cash withdrawals used to repay straw contributors from bank accounts in the knowing attempt to avoid federal credit transaction reporting (“CTR”) requirements; and unlawful direct cash payments to a candidate of amounts far above the maximum contribution allowed by Kentucky law.
A jury convicted Turner of mail fraud in connection with the Newsome campaign and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with the Hays campaign. Turner’s convictions were based on two alternate theories: first, that Turner participated in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Kentucky of the honest services of a candidate (Newsome or Hays) for public office (the “honest services theory”); and second, that Turner participated in a scheme to defraud the citizens of Kentucky of money or property – specifically, the salary and emoluments of the public office sought by Newsome or Hays (the “salary theory”).
We reverse the judgment of the district court because Turner’s conduct, as alleged in the indictment, may not be prosecuted under the mail fraud statute using either the honest services theory or salary theory of prosecution.