UPDATED 10.12.2012 at 3:20 p.m. by Garin Flowers
Five out of nine people arrested in a voter fraud investigation last year appeared in court Friday morning.
Known as the Madison 9, they all asked a judge to completely dismiss their case, claiming they did nothing wrong.
Their lawyers will file a motion to do so within ten days and the state will have 20 days to respond.
The arrests stem from a school board race last year in Madison.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched its investigation after the state elections division noted an "extraordinarily disproportionate amount of absentee votes" in the district one school board race.
UPDATED 4.14.2012 6:45pm by Mike Springer
Members of the Madison Community met Saturday 4-14-12 at the Mount Zion AME Church to discuss the 'Madison 9' case and voter suppression.
"I want all of us to be vindicated because we have done nothing wrong," says Montollis Roberson
She is one of the 'Madison 9.' Roberson was arrested back in November along with eight others and charged with voter fraud. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says that fraud occurred during a county school board election. These are accusations Roberson says have cost her a job and worn on her family.
"The ridicule, the humiliation. I've never encountered anything like this. It's very, very devastating," says Roberson.
"They've made Madison Ground Zero on these very repressive voters' rights ordinances and laws that have been passed, " says attorney Benjamin Crump.
Benjamin Crump is the attorney representing the 'Madison 9'.
"In the 'Madison 9' situation, people are out here trying to get people to vote, encouraging them to exercise he constitutional right to vote and they're being punished for it and we can't have that."
For nearly four hours, they sat in the church's pews listening to members of the community speak about the importance about fighting for their right to vote.
"You have to fight for your right to vote because if you don't, what will happen in the future?," says Crump.
Crump says he and his 'Madison 9' clients will see their case through. Even if it means going to trial.
UPDATED 1.17.2012 6:45pm by Julie Montanaro
A Madison County woman facing criminal charges of voter fraud contends FDLE crossed the line during its investigation. The woman claims she was confronted at gunpoint.
Judy Ann Crumitie - along with her attorneys and representatives from the NAACP - hand delivered a notice to the governor's office Tuesday morning - announcing her intent to sue FDLE for pulling a gun on her during its investigation into voter fraud in Madison County.
"They come into my house with a gun and they arrest me. I was scared. I didn't know it was against the law to vote," Crumitie said with a sigh. "I don't go anywhere like I used to because of what happened. It's devastating to have a gun drawn on you."
"Miss Crumitie and so many people like her simply were trying to vote, simply trying to help people vote and because of that, they were arrested," said Crumitie's attorney Ben Crump.
Crumitie is facing four counts of voter fraud and one count of lying to law enforcement. She was one of nine people arrested in November 2011. FDLE launched its investigation after the state elections division noted an "extraordinarily disproportionate amount of absentee votes" in the district one school board race.
Attorney Benjamin Crump called the tactics used in that investigation "voter supression."
"The FDLE has launched a voter supression campaign to intimidate minorities from going to the polls in this upcoming election," Crump said.
An FDLE spokeswoman said she cannot comment on whether or not any of its agents pulled a gun on Crumitie and as for the rest of the allegations? She said FDLE , "has not received notice of this lawsuit and has received no complaints regarding this investigation."
The suit itself has not been filed, so specifics are limited. Attorneys said they could not discuss many details because criminal charges against Crumitie are still pending.
UPDATED 1.17.2012 by Julie Montanaro
51 year old Judy Ann Crumitie and her attorneys walked into Florida Governor Rick Scott's office this morning and hand delivered a notice of their intent to sue FDLE for its handling of a voter fraud investigation in Madison County.
Crumitie was one of nine people arrested in November after an investigation into what FDLE said was "an extraordinarily disproportionate amount" of absentee votes cast in one of the 2010 school board races there.
Crumitie's attorney Benjamin Crump says FDLE agents harrassed and intimidated her and the local NAACP president says the arrests have had a chilling effect on African American voters there, many of whom say they now refuse to vote by absentee ballot.
Crumitie struggled to fight back tears as she talked to the press outside the governor's office this morning. Her attorneys say because of the pending criminal charges against her, Crumitie could not share many specifics.
"The manner in which the FDLE conducted their investigation was coercive, and meant to harrass and intimidate her (Crumitie) and the local African American population to suppress their right to vote," Crump said in his notice.
We are trying to reach FDLE for comment.
Madison County, FL -- November 10, 2011 --
Statement from FDLE:
“The FDLE and the FBI conducted a thorough, objective and unbiased investigation. At no time were any subjects or witnesses threatened or intimidated in any manner. As this case is pending prosecution we cannot provide further comment; however, we are confident that when the records become public they will clearly reflect that we conducted ourselves with professionalism and integrity every step of the way.”
FDLE did not attend the town hall meeting.
Madison County, FL -- November 9, 2011 --
The Florida State Conference (FSC) NAACP President, Adora Obi Nweze, along with Madison County Branch President Reverend Frank Raines, will host a Town Hall meeting at Genesis Baptist Church, 2062 NE Colin Kelly Highway, Madison, FL., starting at 6:00 p.m.
Numerous individuals questioned by a team of FBI and FDLE agents during the course of the investigation that led to 10 African-Americans being arrested, have complained that under threat of arrest, they were forced to make admissions and sign statements that were inaccurate regarding their direct or indirect involvement in the case. At least one individual, after challenging allegations of their alleged involvement by the FBI/FDLE agents, asked them to leave and as they departed the FDLE agent turned and made a final demand for information to support the criminal allegations, an act the individual perceived to be one of intimidation and a threat of dire consequences for failing to talk with them at that time. President Raines has related that many citizens have expressed concern and disdain in being involved in future voting in the wake of the tactics used by the agents and lack of clarity in Florida’s new voter laws.
“The NAACP views these actions in Madison, County, especially, tactics used by the FBI and FDLE as fostering an atmosphere that promotes voter suppression leading into the 2012 election. Further, we are concerned with the racial implications suggested by the actions of the FBI and FDLE in this case; as over a year ago, the Gadsden County NAACP filed a complaint through the Office of the US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida regarding voter impropriety by a white County Commissioner involving actual payoffs to impact the Gadsden County elections, clearly, a more serious offense, and as of this date nothing has been done, “states President Nweze. “The NAACP has identified the actions in Madison County as one of national concern and has agreed to allocate resources to assist in insuring that voters are not intimidated by these actions and pending the outcome of our Town Hall meeting tonight, we will decide next steps to be taken and whether to ask for intervention locally through the US Attorney or through the Executive Office of the US Attorney General. The NAACP will not standby and allow agents of any governmental agency to use intimidation or other means intentionally, or unintentionally, to intimidate voters in such a way that discourages them from exercising their right to vote” states President Nweze.
The law office of David Frank and Parks & Crump, LLC has volunteered and is ready to assist those victims impacted by the above events.
Madison County, FL -- November 1, 2011 --
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Tallahassee Regional Operations Center and the Tallahassee office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation today arrested eight individuals in connection with multiple voter fraud violations that occurred in Madison County’s District One School Board race last year.
The investigation began in November 2010 after FDLE was contacted by the Department of State’s Division of Elections regarding possible fraud in the 2010 Madison County election. The complaint noted that the District One School Board race, which was won by candidate Abra “Tina” Hill Johnson, had an extraordinarily disproportionate amount of absentee votes.
The investigation revealed that Johnson and her husband, Ernest Sinclair Johnson, Jr., approached voters and obtained their agreement to vote, after which the voters were asked to sign an “Absentee Ballot Request Form.” Without the voters’ knowledge or consent, an alternate address was handwritten on the form, causing the ballots to be mailed to a third party rather than directly to the registered voters. In 2010, Florida law required ballots to be sent to a voter’s registered address unless the voter was absent from the county, hospitalized, or temporarily unable to occupy their residence. The Johnsons retrieved the ballots from the third party locations, brought the ballots to the voter, waited for the person to vote, and then returned the ballots to the Supervisor of Elections. In some instances, the voters were only presented with the absentee ballot signature envelope to sign and never received the actual ballot to cast their vote.
The Johnsons also secured the assistance of several other individuals to unlawfully obtain absentee ballots directly from the Supervisor of Elections. Despite written notice of penalties of perjury, these individuals signed and submitted an “Affidavit to Obtain Absentee Ballot,” claiming to have been authorized by voter to obtain their absentee ballot. These individuals, however, were unknown to the voters.
Abra “Tina” Hill Johnson, 43, was charged with 10 counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, and two counts of absentee ballots and voting violations. Her husband Ernest Sinclair Johnson, Jr., 45, was charged with 11 counts of fraud in connection with casting votes, one count of corruptly influencing voting, and one count of perjury by false written declaration. Jada Woods Williams, 34, Madison County Supervisor of Elections, was charged with 17 counts of neglect of duty and corrupt practices for allowing the distribution of these absentee ballots, contrary to Florida state statute.
The following individuals, all residents of Madison, Fla., were arrested for their role in the fraud:
* Judy Ann Crumitie, 51, charged with four counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities
* Laverne V. Haynes, 57, charged with two counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, two counts of perjury by false written declaration, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities
* Ora Bell Rivers, 41, charged with seven counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, three counts of perjury by false written declaration, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities
* Raven Simona Williams, 20, charged with two counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, two counts of perjury by false written declaration, and one count of providing a false report to law enforcement authorities
* Shalonda Michaelle Brinson, 36, charged with nine counts of fraud in connection with casting a vote, and one count of provided a false report to law enforcement authorities.
The case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, Second Judicial Circuit. The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible.