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11:24 PM Tue, Jan. 15th

Former sheriff hopeful: I'm not guilty

Michael Hays

Michael Hays

A former candidate who briefly challenged Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of voter fraud.

Michael Hays, 49, was formally arraigned in court on four felony charges of fraud and false voter registration for allegedly running for office in a precinct he didn't live in. Although the case is being handled in Mohave Superior Court, it is being prosecuted by the Yavapai County Attorney's Office because of a potential conflict of interest between the Sheriff's Office and attorneys here.

Hays is being represented by Tempe attorney Kirk Smith, who filed a request to have the case moved out of Mohave County because of the possibility of a tainted jury pool. Judge Derek Carlisle denied the motion and set the next hearing in the case for Nov. 14.

Hays was the lone challenger to Sheahan before discontinuing his campaign in May 2011 and never submitted nominating petitions to put him on the August election ballot.