3 On Your Side Investigates: Corruption in Canton
CANTON, MS (WLBT) - The Canton voter fraud cases were talked about for months before the first round of indictments in December of last year.
15 indictments, 25 counts, most of them against Courtney Rainey, the City's Director of Human and Cultural Needs and a member of the School Board.
More indictments in February for Courtney Rainey, who, again, faces multiple charges.
It started with the 2017 Canton Municipal elections and almost no one seemed surprised. 3 On Your Side Investigates Corruption in Canton.
The Madison County District Attorney's office began an investigation into the 2017 Municipal elections after receiving a massive number of complaints from Canton citizens.
Keith Warfield, who ran for the Ward 7 Seat, said, “It’s clear to see it wasn’t fair, the election wasn’t fair. I wouldn’t say I lost because of it, but if everything had went the way it was supposed to, I mean, it would have turned out a little different.”
Andrew Grant won in Ward 7 and is now facing indictments for voter fraud and conspiracy to commit voter fraud. Grant was in court Monday along with three others for a status hearing.
Grant is listed as a co-defendant on indictments issued in February, along with Courtney Rainey. Rainey, who is now running for Justice Court Judge, faces multiple counts.
Rainey was served with seven indictments in December with over a dozen counts against her. She was also in court Monday. Both face a deadline on Friday if they choose to plead guilty in the case.
Carlos Tanner, the attorney for Rainey said, “My client, at this point, she’s wanting to fight these charges. She doesn’t believe they have validity.”
A total of nine people have been charged so far in the voter fraud scandal. The charges include exchanging everything from Walmart gift cards, to money for votes. Rainey is also accused of intimidating a witness.
Two members of the Canton Board of Aldermen, Vickie McNeil, who is also a former police chief, and Andrew Grant have been indicted.
Desmand King, a deputy City Clerk, Rainey, who sits on the Canton School Board is Director of Human and Cultural Needs, Valerie Smith, a retired City Clerk, and Cary Johnson, a former Fire Chief, have been indicted.
We asked Canton’s mayor what this means for the city, especially if there are convictions in the case.
"We have sort of moved on and we are not at the stop light. We’re not at the stop sign. We’re just simply moving forward,” Mayor Truly said.
Many voters have asked how Rainey can run for justice court judge. She can because she has only been accused, not convicted, of a crime. Though the trials are not set to begin until April, Mayor Truly says he is often asked about the case and his city.
Mayor Truly said, “Yes, I was surprised that there were so many people involved that I know, and not just know but who are friends of mine. That I have chatted, interacted with them, asked them for their ideas.”
Voters are watching what happens next anxiously. And there are also questions on whether this is the end or just the beginning of the investigation.
"It’s not over. There’s a reasonableness that other indictments will come. I didn’t know that, I just feel that and so we’ll just have to wait,” said Truly.
Many of the charges in the voter fraud case involve absentee ballots. Several of those indicted claimed to be duly and qualified voters when they were not eligible to vote, like Sherman Matlock who was convicted of manslaughter in 1993.
Donnell Robinson is charged with claiming to be a qualified voter on an absentee ballot application form. He was convicted of receiving stolen goods in April 1995. He was also sentenced to 15 years for two counts of Grand Larceny and one count of House Burglary. According to his indictment, Robinson voted in the Ward 7 election.
The question most ask is why? A question no one wanted to answer on camera. In spite of the controversy, Mayor Truly says he can only try to move the city forward and concentrate on finding more jobs, improving education and providing more opportunities for the citizens of Canton.
Mayor Truly said, “I cannot say to you today who’s gonna spend time in prison. Who’s not gonna spend time in prison, because that’s a legal matter and I cannot predict the outcome of any of these indictments.”
Jennifer Robinson is also charged with voter fraud. She's accused of voting in Ward 7 though she did not live in an area that allowed her to cast a ballot in the race.
And that is not the only investigation that could impact Canton city government. Daphne Sims, another member of the Board of Aldermen, who is also a Canton teacher, has been under investigation by the State Department of Education for an alleged altercation with a middle school student.
Wednesday, 3 On Your Side learned that based on the report submitted by the Canton Public School District about Sims, the MDE internal review committee will make its final determination on the case at its April meeting.
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