Two Democrat officials in Louisiana have been sentenced to one year in prison for criminally violating federal election laws in a vote-buying case. Former Democratic Amite City, Louisiana, police chief Jerry Trabona and City Councilwoman Kristian Hart were sentenced to one year in prison for violating federal election laws after they were caught buying votes.
“Trabona, 73, and Hart, 50, each received one year in prison following an investigation, led by the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, which showed that Trabona and Hart worked to hire individuals to identify potential voters, transport the voters and offer payment to the voters – provided they voted in the requested manner, according to the DOJ press release. Alongside the one-year prison sentence, Trabona was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, and another unnamed conspirator was sentenced to four months in prison,” the Daily Caller reported.
“Hart and Trabona were able to successfully buy votes by providing sample ballots with the desired candidate name and number, according to The Heritage Foundation. The ballots were for Hart, Trabona, and other preferred candidates. In some cases, Hart paid voters to identify those who had not voted, take them to the polls, then pay for their vote, according to the Heritage Foundation. To help cover up the operation, Trabona required that vote buyers sign a contract stating that they would not make any overture of any kind to any voter or other person of financial award or benefit in exchange for a vote,” the report added.
The vote buyers were paid up to US$20 dollars for each vote they brought in.
The Department of Justice stated in a press release:
A former police chief in Amite City, Louisiana, and a former Amite City councilmember were each sentenced yesterday to one year in prison for violating federal election laws as part of a conspiracy to pay, or offer to pay, voters for voting in a federal election.
In addition to the prison sentence, the former police chief was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Today, an additional co-conspirator was sentenced to four months in prison for his role in the scheme.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Jerry Trabona, 73, the former Chief of Police in Amite City, and Kristian “Kris” Hart, 50, a former Amite City councilmember, agreed with each other and others to pay or offer to pay voters residing in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, for voting during the 2016 Open Primary Election and the 2016 Open General Election, contests in which Trabona and Hart were candidates. Trabona and Hart’s vote buying scheme included the solicitation and hiring of individuals responsible for identifying potential voters, the transportation of those voters to the polls, and payment and offer of payment to the voters for voting. In the 2016 election, co-conspirator Sidney Smith, 69, of Amite City, paid voters with money provided by Trabona and Hart.
Two other Louisiana men who previously pleaded guilty for their involvement in the vote-buying scheme, Calvin Batiste and Louis Ruffino, will be sentenced at a later date.
The charges follow an initial 2018 investigation into violations of election laws in Louisiana, according to The Advocate.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that illegal voting, including vote buying, has no place in our nation’s electoral system”, said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“We must have fair elections, free from the taint of corruption, to ensure a fully functional government”, stated U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Safeguarding the voting process is of paramount importance to our office and the Department of Justice”.
“Providing a voter with money or something of value in exchange for voting is a federal crime”, said Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr. of the FBI New Orleans Field Office. “Today’s guilty pleas sends a clear message that individuals like former Amite Chief of Police Jerry Trabona and current Amite City Councilmember Kris Hart, who engaged in voter fraud, will be held accountable. We thank our partners at the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana for helping disrupt voter fraud and continuing to protect the right to vote”.