Prosecution rests in election fraud case

The prosecution today rested its election fraud case against former St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chairman Butch Morgan.

Statements made in court today indicate that Morgan may testify on his own behalf on Thursday.

Morgan and co-defendant Dustin Blythe are accused of making false petitions needed to get Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Indiana’s 2008 Primary Election ballot.

The prosecution today finished with a one-two punch as two people who started out as co-defendants in the case took the stand as witnesses.

Both admitted they were guilty of forgery and both pointed a finger at Morgan and Blythe.

Former voter registration worker Bev Shelton today said the initial strategy among co-defendants was to deny everything. She said it got to the point where even she started to believe she didn’t do it. She cited several strategy meetings in which plans were discussed to discredit the voter registration worker who brought the situation to light—Lucas Burkett.

Things changed dramatically in February of this year when Shelton had lunch with Butch Morgan. The man who had said for months that everything would be alright if they all stuck together, suddenly asked Shelton how she would feel about serving jail time on weekends only.

Shelton changed her plea to guilty in late March, fellow former voter registration worker Pam Brunette plead guilty earlier this month.

Brunette today took the stand and identified 10 specific signatures that she copied. Brunette said that Morgan told her to use different ink and to change the handwriting to cover things up.

In Shelton’s words, “I did this crime over and over.” Shelton said she realized what she was doing was illegal, but she didn’t realize the severity of it.

The defense claims that both witnesses changed the stories they originally gave police, to adjust to what the prosecution wanted to hear.

Earlier in the day, a crime fighter turned crime victim. Sgt. Lee Ross of the South Bend Police was one of nine people called to testify that they had signed petitions in support of gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger in 2008, only to have their names mysteriously and perhaps illegally turn up on petitions supporting Barack Obama for president.

Three of the nine attempts to bring the jury face to face with victims appeared to backfire. Three witnesses seemed to become confused and actually denied that they had signed any nominating petition in 2008. When one woman was confronted with her signature on a Schellinger petition, she insisted it wasn’t hers because it was “too neat.”

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