An Amite, La., councilmember and the former police chief have pleaded guilty to federal charges in a vote buying scheme. City Councilman Kristian Hart and former police chief Jerry Trabona pleaded guilty in New Orleans to criminally violating election laws by offering to pay voters during an election, WDSU reports. The two offered to pay voters during both the 2016 and 2020 elections. Hart was running for the seat he holds on the Amite City Council. Both are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 1. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that illegal voting, including vote buying, has no place in our nation’s electoral system,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division .
The scheme unfolded in 2016 when Hart and Trabona were both running for reelection. It involved six people who prosecutors say received money from the Amite police chief and council member to pay voters. The six people provided transportation for the voters and typically paid them $10 to $20 each for their votes. To conceal the purpose of the payments, the indictment said Trabona had people sign contracts falsely saying they would not "make any overture or any kind to any voter or other person of financial award or other benefit in exchange for a vote." A federal judge unsealed the indictment Monday. Trabona allegedly gave a $500 check from his campaign to one of the six conspirators, identified in the indictment as persons A, B, C, D, E, F and G.