The former mayor of the Floyd County town of Martin has been convicted of intentionally violating voters’ civil rights during her 2012 re-election campaign.
On Thursday evening, a federal jury in Pikeville convicted Ruth Thomasine Robinson, 69, of conspiracy to violate civil rights and one count of vote buying. The jury also convicted her husband, James “Red” Robinson, 64, of the conspiracy count and one vote buying count.
Her stepson, James Steven Robinson, 32, was found guilty of the conspiracy count and two of three vote buying counts and another co-defendant, Johnny T. Moore, 32, was acquitted of all charges. The jury returned the verdicts after approximately two hours of deliberation following three days of trial, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.
According to evidence introduced at trial, Thomasine Robinson and her co-conspirators intimated poor and disabled citizens in order to gain their votes during the 2012 general election in Martin. For instance, members of the conspiracy directed residents of public housing to vote by absentee ballot under the supervision of Thomasine Robinson or another member of the conspiracy. The members of the conspiracy also targeted residents of private housing owned and leased by Thomasine Robinson.
The trial testimony also established the members of the conspiracy filled out absentee ballots, marking the conspirators’ choice of candidates, and then had the voters sign the pre-marked ballots. Voters who cooperated with this arrangement and voted for Thomasine Robinson received promises of better living arrangements and other consideration. Voters who did not comply faced consequences such as eviction and the loss of priority for public housing.
In addition, the evidence at trial established that the defendants offered to pay several voters to vote for Thomasine Robinson.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 9. The defendants face a maximum of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy offense and a maximum of five years in prison on the vote buying offenses. However, the court must consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statutes before imposing a sentence.
The conviction was the second this year for Thomasine Robinson. In February, a U.S. District Court jury in London convicted her and her daughter, Rita Christine Whicker, 42, former director of the Martin Community Center, on all eight counts with which they were charged, including counts of conspiracy, federal program fraud, theft of Social Security Disability benefits and aggravated identity theft.
Ginger Michelle Halbert, 42, a volunteer city employee who worked closely with Robinson, pleaded guilty in the case to a charge of theft of government money.
Sentencing for Robinson and Whicker is scheduled for July 9. Halbert is scheduled for sentencing on June 6. The conspiracy offense carries a maximum of five years in prison; misappropriating money from a federal program carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; and aggravated identity theft has a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison.