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Ex-Chattooga County judge facing possible $100K fine
The State Elections Board hasn’t decided an alleged vote-fixing case in Chattooga County yet, but they sure sounded Tuesday like they want to drop the hammer on former State Court Judge Carlton Vines (right).
“We’re looking at basically a $100,000 fine,” board member Randy Evans said, drawing a gasp from spectators in the packed room.
Vines walked in April after a jury in Summerville couldn’t reach a decision on criminal charges that he conspired to fix the 2006 election that he won. Vines agreed to resign and never to seek or accept another judgeship, in exchange for prosecutors’ offer not to retry the case.
Members of the election board Tuesday listened for more than an hour to evidence in the case, then deferred a decision until they could pull together more evidence, including a transcript of the trial.
Board member Randy Evans noted that Vines is “heavily lawyered” and that the board could expect extensive legal maneuvering once it takes action.
“I don’t want this guy to get off the hook,’ Evans said. “There has been a very careful navigation to avoid the consequences of deliberate actions.”
Special prosecutor Joe Burford told the board that Vines conspired with several campaign workers to solicit voters to cast absentee ballots, then offered to pick them up and get them to the election office. Instead, Burford said, the workers delivered dozens of ballots to Vines’ office.
Vines wound up with at least 18 sequentially numbered ballots that he mailed in by using a postage meter at another lawyer’s office, Burford said.
Vines told one of the workers that absentee ballots would decide the election, Burford said. Vines, who had served several terms previously as State Court judge, ran about 150 votes behind before absentees were counted in the November 2006 election; absentees pushed him to a lead of about 200 votes.