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Four Democrats involved in an upstate New York voter fraud scandal were sentenced yesterday for their respective roles, receiving punishments ranging from hundreds of hours of community service, to jail time. The group consisted of a former city clerk, an ex-City Councilman, a Democrat operative, and a Committeeman who a year ago had declared ballot forgery in upstate New York to be "a normal political tactic".
Those sentenced yesterday were cooperating witnesses in a scheme which saw dozens of voters testify that absentee ballots had been submitted in their names during the 2009 Working Families Party (WFP) primary. Securing the WFP line allowed Democrat candidates to obtain more votes in the general election.
Two others were tried together earlier in the year but a mistrial was declared after jurors were unable to sort through the hundreds of charges that both faced.
Later, tried separately, Michael LoPorto was acquitted when a WFP operative "augmented" her testimony, and Ed McDonough similarly was acquitted after a colleague so egregiously altered his testimony that the judge struck everything he said from the record.
Despite the questionable circumstances surrounding those acquittals, witnesses throughout both trials provided a glimpse into the seedy political underworld in upstate New York.
Democrats preyed on those they felt were the most vulnerable members of society, those making easy targets for their voter fraud scheme.
They targeted these people because of their susceptibility to such fraud, but also the unlikeliness that these groups would ever catch on to the scheme, and if so, the unlikeliness that they would ever report it.
The Democrats sentenced yesterday admitted to a range of criminal activity - from falsifying business records, to offering a false instrument, straight up to flat-out forgery.
Here is a summary of yesterday's sentencing:
DeFiglio was the man who claimed the process of ballot forgery was simply a "normal political tactic" and an accepted way of winning elections. He pled guilty to falsifying business records and was identified as being one of three men who convinced two mentally disabled men to sign absentee ballots which were later filled in for them.
With that, DeFiglio was ordered to stay out of trouble for three years and complete 100 hours of community service by September.
McInerney admitted to forging hundreds of ballots and applications but only had to plead guilty to one in exchange for his testimony. He confessed to targeting those in low-income housing situations, and admitted to committing forgery since at least 2007. During the trial for LoPorto and McDonough, defense attorney Brian Premo suggested that McInerney could have been charged with several hundred felonies.
Adding insult to injury, McInerney also testified about a drunk driving conviction, had to answer questions about a sexual harassment claim which led to his termination at a job with the New York State Legislature, and having an order of protection issued for stalking his ex-wife.
He was given 90 days in a Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Department work program and avoided jail time.
Renna, despite already having been charged with the felony act of offering a false instrument for filing, laughably claimed during the trial that he "wasn’t involved in any criminal procedures.”
His was the testimony that was stricken from the record because he had perjured himself during the McDonough trial.
Despite the readily apparent perjury and admission of forgery, Renna avoided jail time and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Brown was a former City Councilman in Troy who faced the prospect of seven years in jail for his role in the ballot forgeries. A plea deal sought to reduce those charges in exchange for his cooperation.
When the investigation into the Democrats activities started to heat up, Brown concocted a scheme in which he tried to convince WFP members to put out a press release blaming the entire scandal on former city DPW Commissioner Bob Mirch, a Republican.
For his efforts, Brown was sentenced to six months in jail. The prosecutor had tried to argue that Brown be allowed to serve the jail time on weekends so as not to interfere with his new job, a motion the judge struck down.
James Gordon, Chairman of the Troy Republican Committee said, having been a part of the election process for a number of years that he has, “never heard or seen anything resembling these actions.”
Aside from those mentioned above, two other Democrats, former Council President Clement Campana and Councilman Gary Galuski remain under indictment awaiting to hear their fate.
Another current member of the City Council in Troy, Kevin McGrath, confessed to being a convicted felon during the trials, joked about his drug-peddling past (a remark that prompted an apology to the judge), and confessed to "commit(ing) crimes in this case".
McGrath was given what the former Democrat Party Chairman described as "the deal of a lifetime", avoiding prosecution and jail time, despite crimes that outweighed what others had been charged with.
Four Democrats sentenced. Two more under indictment. Two acquitted due to altered testimony. And another who somehow escaped criminal prosecution despite an admission and a prior felony conviction.
The upstate New York voter fraud scandal should serve as a reminder that fraud doesn't simply occur at the national level. But it should also be a concern for those who value the integrity of the election process. These men forged ballots and received incredibly tame punishments for that fact.
Will the slap on the wrist sentencing empower others to do the same?
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