Not long after the U.S. District Attorney’s Office filed court papers saying they had recordings of a Monroe County man conspiring to buy votes in the 2014 Monroe County Sheriff’s election, that man agreed to plead guilty and formerly did do on Thursday.
Brian “Wormy” Hodge had been charged with witness tampering, conspiracy to commit voter fraud, five counts of vote buying and witness tampering, but all those charges were dropped when he agreed to plea to a charge of conspiracy to pay/offering to pay for voting.
For that plea, Hodge faces up to five years in prison, three years supervised probation, a $250,000 fine and a special assessment of $100. A sentencing date of Dec. 19 has been set for Hodge.
Hodge’s plea papers said in 2014 he voluntarily agreed to buy votes for sheriff’s candidate Randy White in conjunction with Betty Jane Hawk/Best. Nowhere in the paperwork does it say White told the two to buy votes. Best pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to pay and to offer to pay for voting last year. She faces a sentence ranging from up to five years in prison, three years of probation and fines up to $250,000. Her sentencing date has been pushed back several times.
The plea papers go on to say Hodge approached Best because she had supported White in past elections and that she located people she thought would be willing to sell their votes. The bought votes were sent in as absentee ballots, the plea papers say, and each voter was paid an estimated $20. The papers do not say how many votes were bought and that Hodge was the one who supplied the money.
Court papers filed in federal court recently show Best and Hodge were recorded by a confidential informant working for TBI in which they discussed vote buying Hodges said they were doing it for White’s campaign, but he does not say White had put them up to it. The recordings were made in January and April 2016.
The recordings also allegedly say Hodge said they would not need to buy votes in 2016 as the candidate they supported would win easily.
The story of the 2014 Monroe County Sheriff’s election was the main news for a while. White won that election but about a month into his term was removed from the job by a judge who ruled he was ineligible to serve.
The Monroe County Commission appointed Chief Deputy Tommy Jones II as sheriff. Jones easily won re-election in 2016.
In previous court filings, United States District Attorney Doug Overbey has said TBI DNA expert Agent Terra Asbury was given a saliva sample from Hodge and testing showed it matched perfectly with the saliva from the absentee voting envelope. Overbey wrote in his filing that the odds of the match being a mistake is “greater than the current world population for the African American, Caucasian and southwestern Hispanic populations.”
Sheriff Jones has said he had nothing to do with the alleged vote buying and maintains that stance, saying he did not run in 2014 and guarantees there was no vote buying in 2016.