Cairo official charged with four felonies

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CAIRO, Ill. -- City Councilman Elbert "Bo" Purchase launched into a obscenity-laced verbal attack on Mayor Paul Farris and five city employees last September that included physical threats and racial slurs, according to documents included with a criminal complaint filed against Purchase.

Purchase, Cairo's longest-serving council member, was charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor in papers filed Tuesday in Alexander County by Pulaski County State's Attorney Grayson Gile, who is acting as a special prosecutor in the case. Purchase was charged with two felony counts of threatening a public official, a felony count of intimidation, a felony count of official misconduct and a misdemeanor charge of aggravated assault.

The charges were filed three weeks before the April 17 election in which Purchase will be a candidate for another term on the six-member council. Farris, who was defeated in a 10-way primary in February, announced the charges against Purchase in a Wednesday morning news conference.

Farris said he and five city workers were working Sept. 5 on a cleanup project in anticipation of a visit from the riverboat Delta Queen when Purchase drove up. At one point, Purchase was "as close to me as you can get without touching me" and was screaming, Farris said.

While in his vehicle, Purchase began jeering and "screaming all types of obscenities," Farris said.

The tirade continued after he left the vehicle, with Purchase, according to the statements given to Cairo police, threatening to severely hurt Farris and using a racial slur to refer to city workers Farris was supervising. "He invited the mayor to go around the building so Bo could beat him up," city worker Alvin Smith told police.

"He is out of control, and he is a dangerous individual," Farris said.

Purchase could not be reached for comment. He did not return a message left on his mobile telephone and was not at home when a reporter knocked at his door.

Judge William Thurston issued a summons for Purchase to appear in court on the charges April 25.

The threatening actions are continuing, said James Wisniewski, a poll watcher for mayoral candidate Karl Klein. During the morning, Wisniewski sits in the Alexander County clerk's office tracking absentee voting. He said he began the day after 77 people voted March 19. On that day, March 20, another 40 people voted and Wisniewski said Purchase told him not to take any action to challenge voters, including asking for the names of the people casting ballots.

In a statement written after the incident, Wisniewski said Purchase told him "'if that punk Karl Klein has anything to say he can see me at my home' and gave the address and said he would show Karl Klein what harassment was."

It took calls to the state Board of Elections and a discussion between County Clerk Kent Thomas and State's Attorney Jeff Farris before Wisniewski was allowed to record the names of the people casting absentee ballots.

In the three days after Wisniewski started watching the polls, 22 voters cast absentee ballots.

"My point is that there should be a fair and honest election no matter who wins," Wisniewski said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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