TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ A judge has thrown out charges against one defendant in a north Florida voting fraud case and defense lawyers on Thursday predicted that others would follow.
Circuit Judge Julian Collins this week dismissed felony charges against Montollis Roberson, a volunteer in the 2010 campaign of a Madison County school board candidate.
“I think it effectively is going to end the case,'' Tallahassee lawyer Robert Cox said. He said his client, a nurse who lost her nursing home job after her arrest, was “absolutely ecstatic.''
Roberson was one of nine Madison County residents, including two elected officials, who were arrested in the case in 2011. Madison is about 50 miles east of Tallahassee.
She was accused of violating regulations for the distribution and collection of absentee ballots, but Collins cited a 1975 Florida Supreme Court ruling that says those provisions are discretionary rather than mandatory.
The judge also noted that the state conceded there had been no intent to cast a false or fraudulent ballot. Voters who received the absentee ballots said they were able to cast them for the candidates of their choice.
“The legal issues and the facts in this case are common to all defendants,'' said attorney Jami Coleman, who is representing another defendant, Raven Williams.
State Attorney Willie Meggs said he disagreed with the judge's decision, but added, “It's kind of OK.'' He said if nothing else, the case has shown the Legislature needs to tighten laws on absentee voting.
“It is an area prime for fraud,'' Meggs said.
Five other defendants are facing similar charges, including Williams and suspended Madison County School Board member Abra “Tina'' Hill Johnson and her husband. Two other cases have been resolved through pretrial intervention.
Suspended Supervisor of Elections Jada Woods Williams, meanwhile, is facing separate misdemeanor negligence charges.
Johnson won the election by 28 votes. She and her campaign volunteers were charged with obtaining about 45 absentee ballots without proper authorization.
*Pictured above are Jada Woods Williams, l, and Tina Johnson, r.