Punishment Includes Up to Five Years Prison, $250K Fine
One of two Monroe County residents who have been charged with vote buying and conspiracy in the federal election of 2014 has entered a plea agreement in federal court in Knoxville. According to paperwork filed in the United States Eastern District Court on Monday, Betty Jane Best, also known as Betty Hawkins, will formally plea on Tuesday, April 11, to one count of “conspiracy to pay and to
offer to pay for voting.”
The agreement came after a federal grand jury returned true bills against her and Brian “Wormy” Hodge on February 7, charging the two each with conspiracy to buy votes plus 13 counts of vote buying. Hodge has not pled and appears to be preparing for a scheduled trial on Monday, April 24.
The agreement signed by Hawkins and her public attorney Ben Sharp of Federal Defense Services of Knoxville stipulates the United States agrees to move the court at the time of sentencing to dismiss the remaining counts
– the 13 vote buying accusations – against her.
In reading and accepting the agreement, Best affirmed she understood the elements of the offense with which she was charged, which were (a) two or more persons conspired to commit an offense against the United States, (b) the defendant (Best) was knowingly and voluntarily a member of that conspiracy, and (c) an overt act was committed by a member of that conspiracy in order to further the conspiracy.
“These are the facts submitted for the purposes of the defendant’s guilty plea,” said the agreement. “They do not necessarily constitute all of the facts in the case. Other facts may be relevant to sentencing.”
According to the paperwork filed against Best, she and Hodge entered into an agreement in May or June 2014 to pay for votes to support Republican candidate for sheriff Randy White. Hodge approached Best and worked in concert with her to help White win the election by, “among other things,” buying votes.
“The defendant (Best) knew that the purpose of the agreement was to pay voters for their vote in the August 2014 election,” the filed paperwork said. “Other persons besides the defendant were conspiring to also buy votes.”
Best’s agreement with Hodge included identifying and contacting voters who could vote absentee and “helping” apply to receive and return an absentee ballot by mail. Best paid voters $20 to $40 cash, the plea agreement said, and it, the agreement, named seven local voters who accepted money.
“Hodge was aware of these payments. Hodge gave the defendant money. Hodge drove the defendant on occasion to locations where the defendant retrieved ballots from absentee voters.”
The plea agreement further stated: “The defendant is pleading guilty because the defendant is in fact guilty.”
The punishment for the conspiracy offense is a term of imprisonment of up to five years, a term of supervised release of up to three years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a mandatory special assessment of $100.
Additionally filed against Best was a sealed plea agreement that was not available to the public or to the BUZZ on Friday, or today.
On March 27, Hodge’s attorney filed motions for extension of time to prepare his case, examine the prosecution’s evidence, and seek any copies of fingerprints or palm prints the prosecution might intend to use at Hodge’s trial.