PORT ALLEN — The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it lacks evidence that would support bringing criminal charges against anyone for alleged voter fraud during the city’s 2014 special mayoral race.
But Col. Richie Johnson said “irregularities” were verified in a grand jury investigation of the claims, and he’s keeping the file open in case new evidence surfaces that could lead to arrests.
“The grand jury has investigated the case diligently over the past six months and following final testimony today has decided” to let the case go without taking further action, Johnson said in a news release Thursday.
“As we believed from inception of this investigation, the irregularities and beneficiaries of the voter fraud are obvious,” Johnson wrote. “However, the evidence needed to support probable cause for a specific person to be arrested are not.”
The probe into allegations of voter fraud was launched in March 2014 after the Sheriff’s Office received complaints about hundreds of mail-in and faxed requests for early voting ballots that did not match voter information on file with the parish Registrar of Voters Office.
Johnson said previously at least one individual trying to submit an early ballot was told by workers in the Registrar’s Office that his ballot could not be accepted because he had already cast his vote via mail-in ballot. However, the individual told authorities he hadn’t voted yet.
Part of the Sheriff’s Office investigation focused on obtaining a copy of the failed recall petitions targeting Port Allen Councilman R.J. Loupe.
Larry Profit and Gizele Thompson filed paperwork on Sept. 4, 2013, to initiate the recall petition drive against Loupe — just days after a separate group filed paperwork to initiate a recall drive against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter.
Slaughter was vying to get her job back in the special election after she was recalled from office on Nov. 16, 2013. She lost to the city’s current mayor, Richard Lee, in the April 5, 2014, election.
The Sheriff’s Office tried to get a state district court judge to order Profit, the petition drive’s chairman, to turn over the documents. However, Profit avoided two contempt hearings due to seizures he had in court shortly before his hearings.
Johnson said Profit later met with investigators and cooperated fully but did not have the documents they were seeking.
“Every person that participated in these fraudulent acts knows who they are,” Johnson said in the news release. “It is our hope that this process will send a message and serve as a deterrent for future voter fraud by candidates for public office.”
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