Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Former Voter Registration Worker: Democratic Boss Repeatedly Met With Co-Defendants To Plot Strategy For Fighting Petition-Forging Charges

The prosecution rested its case after calling two former Democratic voter registration workers who previously agreed to plead guilty to charges that they conspired with St. Joseph Co. Democratic Party Chairman and another co-worker to forge signatures on the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating petitions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Jurors also heard today from an forensic document expert, who couldn't say with certainty that any of the signatures on the forged petitions belonged to one of the charged, Dustin Blythe and nine persons whose signatures had been forged on the petitions, including South Bend police officer Sgt. Lee Ross. Ross said he signed a petition for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger but not for Barack Obama.

Beverly Shelton testified that former Democratic county party boss Butch Morgan and fellow co-worker Dustin Blythe held several strategy meetings with the four charged in the petition-forging scheme at which they discussed denying all of the charges against them. According to Shelton, Morgan assured his co-defendants that "everyone would be all right" if they stuck together and worked to discredit former co-worker Lucas Burkett, the whistle blower who first went public with allegations of the scheme to forge signatures on 2008 Democratic presidential primary nominating petitions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Without those forged signatures, Obama would have lacked a sufficient number of signatures to compete in the closely-fought Indiana primary against Hillary Clinton, which Clinton narrowly won but the candidates almost evenly split the delegates.

Beverly Shelton told jurors that she decided to switch course and plead guilty after Morgan met with the four accused in February and asked her if she would be interested in a plea agreement that would require her to serve jail time only on weekends. Shelton changed her plea to guilty the following month, followed by fellow co-defendant Pam Burnette's guilty plea earlier this month. Both told jurors today that they had forged signatures on petitions and that Morgan and Blythe were behind the scheme. "Brunette today took the stand and identified 10 specific signatures that she copied. Brunette said that Morgan told her to use different ink and to change the handwriting to cover things up," WNDU-TV reported. "In Shelton’s words, 'I did this crime over and over.'  Shelton said she realized what she was doing was illegal, but she didn’t realize the severity of it."

WNDU reports that Morgan may take the stand in his own defense when his trial reconvenes on Thursday.

No comments: