Thursday, June 30, 2005

Jury Convicts Five in Federal Vote Fraud

ABC News
Jury Convicts Five in Federal Vote Fraud
Federal Jury Convicts Five People in Federal Vote Fraud Trial in East St. Louis, Ill.
The Associated Press

Jun. 29, 2005 - The chairman of the city's Democratic Party and four others were convicted Wednesday of scheming to buy votes with cash, cigarettes and liquor last November.

Charles Powell Jr., 61, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit vote fraud, along with the city's former director of regulatory affairs and three Democratic precinct committee members.

Prosecutors relied largely on secretly recorded audiotapes in which they say the accused could be heard talking about paying $5 per vote to get key Democrats elected.

State records showed that tens of thousands of dollars were transferred from the St. Clair County Democratic party to committee members in East St. Louis days before the Nov. 2 election. Party leaders said it was for legitimate expenses, including rides to the polls for people without cars.

The defense had argued that the government's case was flimsy because of unreliable witnesses whose testimony often contradicted one another and, at times, was recanted.

A date for sentencing was not immediately set. Each count carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In March, three other precinct committee members and a precinct worker each pleaded guilty to a related count of vote buying. They are also awaiting sentencing.

East St. Louis is a struggling former industrial center of 31,500 directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Mo.