A former police chief and a current councilman have been sentenced to 12 months in prison for buying and conspiracy to buy votes during the 2016 election.
The Justice Department’s press release on the matter is as follows:
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 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.”
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