City Councilmember Pleads Guilty to Criminally Violating Federal Election Laws - Tucker
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City Councilmember Pleads Guilty to Criminally Violating Federal Election Laws

Two officials of a small Louisiana town pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating federal election laws during the 2016 election cycle.

Amite City councilman Kris Hart, 49, and former Amite City Police Chief Jerry Trabona, 72, pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay and offering to pay voters residing in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, for voting in the 2016 open primary election and the 2016 open general election, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Trabona and Hart admitted that they agreed to pay, or offered to pay, voters during elections they were candidates on in which there were also federal candidates, the Justice Department said in a statement.

They paid “vote buyers” to identify voters in Tangipahoa Parish who had not yet voted. They drove those individuals to the polling place and paid them for their votes, according to court documents filed by government lawyers.

According to the legal filing, the “vote buyers” were given hundreds of dollars to pay individuals $10 or $20 in exchange for their votes.

“These vote buyers transported the voters to the polls and told the voter which candidate, or candidates, to vote for, or provided the voters with sample ballots containing candidate names or numbers, which included those of Hart and Trabona,” Justice Department attorneys told the court.

Besides the conspiracy with Trabona, Hart pleaded guilty to three counts of paying and offering to pay voters during both the 2016 and 2020 elections, the Justice Department added. Hart was running for the seat he currently holds on the Amite City Council during both of those elections.

“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.

“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.



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