Authorities from the United States Department of Justice revealed Wednesday that two former officials of a Louisiana community were sentenced to a year in prison for paying or attempting to pay individuals for votes.
According to court papers, Jerry Trabona, 73, a retired Amite City police chief, and also Kristian “Kris” Hart, 50, an ex Amite City councilmember, colluded to pay Tangipahoa Parish residents to vote in the 2016 open primary race as well as the 2016 open national election, both of which Hart and Trabona were candidates for.
The DOJ noted in a press release that “Trabona and Hart’s vote purchasing operation comprised the solicitation and employment of people tasked with identifying possible voters, transport of those people to the polls, and compensation and offer of money to the voters for voting.”
Trabona was also forced to pay a $10,000 penalty for his involvement in the scheme.
Federal investigators first charged Trabona and Hart with one count of conspiracy to conduct vote-buying and other charges of vote-buying and aid and abetting, according to the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s National Desk.
Trabona allegedly camouflaged his strategy by requesting that voters sign contracts stating that they wouldn’t “make any overture of any type to any voter or even any person of cash award or advantage in exchange for the vote.”
“The Justice Department is dedicated to guaranteeing that illicit voting, including vote purchasing, has no place in our country’s electoral system,” stated Deputy Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Dept.’s Criminal Division in a news release last summer.
In a press release, U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of LA stated that the state needs “fair elections, free of the stain of corruption to guarantee a properly effective government.”
“Protecting the voting process is critical to our office and the Justice dept.,” Evans added.
According to authorities, offering voters money or anything of value in return for a vote is a criminal felony.
Officials alleged Sidney Smith, 69, of Amite City, was a co-conspirator who paid for votes with funds received by Trabona and Hart.
Smith received a four-month prison sentence for his role in the plot.
Calvin Batiste and Louis Ruffino, two other co-conspirators, were also involved. They will be given their sentence at a later date, according to officials.