The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Official Corruption in Appalachia: A sad but all too common story.


One down!

Thirteen to go!

The healing process has begun…but…

The gavel came down hard this past week in a courtroom in Wise, Virginia.

A sickening bang echoing throughout the courtroom and throughout the little community of Appalachia.

Former mail carrier Don Estridge heard the verdict pronounced: Guilty!

One down. Thirteen to go. And they are coming down fast... most expected to cop a plea by the end of next month rather than risk worse consequences in front of an unforgiving jury and judge, and team of prosecutors.

Estridge was the first defendant to face the music in the voting-fraud conspiracy that brought the little Town of Appalachia into the national news earlier this year.

Thirteen others are waiting in the wings to learn their fate.

Of course, we knew that the story was not going to have a happy ending.

This is a story of wide-spread official corruption in the little Town of Appalachia, Virginia. It is a story of strong willed and seemingly intelligent people who, for reasons unknown, could not resist the temptations of power.

Some of the background on this pitiful story can be read in the Iconoclast archives.

It all started off as a seemingly amusing story about buying votes for as little as a bag of pork rinds. Yes, it sounded funny at the time the story broke.

Eventually, it was found that other pitiful bribes worked just as well…cartons of cigarettes and six packs of beer… whatever!

The amusing little story quickly turned serious when the 300 page indictment was handed down naming 14 good citizens of Appalachia, some in high political offices, in a conspiracy to rig the 2004 Appalachia town election for fun and profit.

It is sad to think that democracy can be so horribly corrupted with such pitifully insignificant bribes.

Just think about what serious bribes can do!

Mr. Estridge is one of the "little" co-conspirators and will face a relatively mild six months in jail and a fine. He was convicted of stealing or diverting absentee ballots, but acquitted of conspiring to help others to vote more than once.

Most of the other co conspirators seem to be negotiating plea deals with the government, including former Town Mayor Ben Cooper, the alleged “mastermind” of the plan to take over control of the local government.

Only former police officer Mike Baber is resisting cooperation and will likely go to trial in the coming months.

As previously reported in the Iconoclast, the voter-fraud conspiracy is just one aspect of this unfolding story. The investigation continues to broaden and is now looking into illegal gambling operations that may have been protected by the crooked public officials.

Additional indictments can be expected.

Who else is involved?

Time will tell.

The healing process has begun.

But... sad to say... the story is far from over.

Stay tuned for new developments.

3 Comments:

  • At 10/23/2006 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Been a long time coming, but it is good to finally see these boys start getting their comeuppance.

     
  • At 11/10/2006 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ex-Mayor Ben Cooper pled guilty today. Two down and twelve to go. Cooper was the big dog so there is no telling what else he told prosecutors to get some lieniency. We should be finding out soon.

     
  • At 11/12/2006 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You mean hoping to get some leniency. Once this all comes out, I doubt the judge is going to be feeling too much sympathy.

     

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