Ex-Louisiana Police Chief and Current City Councilmember Indicted For Buying Votes In 2016 Election

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NEW ORLEANS – (DOJ) – An indictment issued by a federal grand jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, was unsealed charging former Amite City Police Chief Jerry Trabona and current Amite City Councilmember Kristian Hart with criminally violating federal election laws as part of a scheme to pay for votes in a federal election.

According to the indictment, Trabona, 73, of Amite City, and Hart, 49, of Amite City, conspired to and did unlawfully pay voters to cast their ballots for certain candidates during the 2016 Open Primary Election and the 2016 Open General Election in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. The indictment alleges that, in furtherance of the scheme, the conspirators solicited and hired individuals to identify potential voters, transported those voters to the polls where they were provided with the names and candidate numbers of candidates, and paid the voters to cast their ballots for candidates.

Trabona and Hart are each charged with conspiracy to buy votes and multiple counts of buying votes. The defendants are scheduled for their initial court appearance on Dec. 17 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.

The Department of Justice also announced the guilty pleas of two additional Tangipahoa Parish residents for their involvement in vote buying in Tangipahoa Parish during the 2016 election period: Sidney Smith, 68, of Amite City, and Calvin Batiste, 64, of Independence. Smith and Batiste each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to buy votes during the 2016 election. Smith pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk on Nov. 29, and Batiste pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman on Dec. 8. Smith and Batiste both face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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