Former St. Joseph Co. Democratic Chairman Butch Morgan and a Democratic voter registration worker Dustin Blythe have been found guilty by a jury tonight on all counts of the charges brought against them in connection with their scheme to forge signatures on the presidential nomination petitions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primary. Jurors deliberated for just three hours before returning their verdicts. This represents a clean sweep for special prosecutor Stanley Levco, who brought charges against Morgan and three of the Democratic Party's workers in the St. Joseph Co. Voter Registration office.
This story first broke in 2010 when the South Bend Tribune and Howey Politics reported on the scheme Morgan led to secure the necessary signatures Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton needed to make the Indiana Democratic primary ballot in 2008, which became one of the hardest fought primary races that year. As it turned out, the forged signatures in St. Joseph Co. were critical to the Obama campaign meeting the minimum number of signatures required to make the ballot that year. If Obama had failed to make the ballot in Indiana, it very well could have cost him his party's nomination, which he won narrowly over Clinton. Clinton wound up carrying the Indiana primary by a razor-thin margin, but she split the delegates with Obama almost evenly.
Morgan was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit petition fraud, a Class C felony, and two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery, a Class D felony, and Blythe was charged with two counts of forgery, a Class C felony, and one count of falsifying a petition, a Class D felony. Each Class D felony conviction carries a sentence of up to three years, and each Class C felony carries a sentence of up to eight years. Because neither Morgan nor Blythe have any prior convictions, it is likely they will receive lesser sentences. Morgan took the witness in his own defense and insisted he had no knowledge of the scheme and did not instruct anyone else to forge signatures on petitions. Two other voter registration workers, Pam Burnette and Beverly Shelton, previously pleaded guilty to the charges and cooperated as witnesses for the government against Morgan and Blythe.