Four Los Angeles men have admitted to paying hundreds of homeless people cash and cigarettes in exchange for forged signatures on ballot petitions and voter registration forms in LA’s notorious Skid Row district.
Despite pleading no contest to one felony count each, two of the men received suspended state prison sentences, while the other two received formal probation, meaning they all walked free.
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Richard Howard, Louis Thomas Wise, Christopher Joseph Williams and Nickey Demelvin were arrested in November 2018 for their role in the voter fraud scheme that took advantage of Los Angeles’ enormous homeless population during the election that year and in 2016.
They allegedly paid homeless people $1 and cigarettes to sign the fraudulent ballots and registration forms.
DailyMail report: The LA County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday announced that Howard, 64, and Wise, 37, pleaded no contest to one felony count each of registration of a fictitious person and subscribing a fictitious name or the name of another to an initiative petition.
Williams, 41, and Huntley, 45, likewise pleaded no contest to one felony count of circulating an initiative or petition containing false, forged or fictitious names.
Howard received a suspended sentence of three years in state prison and three years of formal probation.
Wise received a suspended sentence of 16 months in state prison and three years of formal probation.
Williams and Huntley were each sentenced to three years of formal probation.
The men were accused alongside five other people of soliciting hundreds of false and forged signatures in Skid Row, an impoverished area with more than 5,000 homeless people living in tents and under tarps.
The group allegedly set up tables near shelters and soup kitchens to lure people in and offer them $1 and cigarettes to sign the ballot petitions and voter registration forms in what prosecutors called ‘an assault on our democracy‘.
Their arrests were part of an LAPD crackdown on voter fraud with assistance from the FBI.
A fifth defendant, Norman Hall, 62, pleaded guilty to one felony count of circulating a petition with false, forged or fictitious names in February and was sentenced to a year in jail.
The four remaining defendants – Kirkland Kauzava Washington, 38; Harold Bennett, 53; Rose Makeda Sweeney, 42; and Jakara Fati Mardis, 35 – are still facing charges.
The District Attorney’s office said three of those defendants are scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing in September.
None of the homeless people who signed faced charges and its unclear which party or petitions the defendants were paying them to vote for.
At the time of the arrests, LA County elections chief Dean Logan says he didn’t believe the falsified ballots would have been counted because staff manually compare petition signatures to the ones on registration forms.
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