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Amite councilman, ex-police chief accused of buying votes for $20

The indictment alleges Hart and Trabona conspired with six unnamed Amite residents and had them pay voters $20 apiece to vote for them.
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AMITE CITY, La. — An Amite City councilman and the city’s former police chief are facing federal vote-buying charges, according to court documents unsealed Monday.

A federal grand jury indicted current Amite City Councilman Kris Hart and former Police Chief Jerry Trabona for allegedly conspiring to buy votes in the 2016 elections when Trabona was re-elected as police chief in the November primary and Hart was elected to the council in the December runoff.

Trabona served 15 years as police chief before running unsuccessfully for mayor of Amite in 2020.

The grand jury handed up the indictment on Nov. 18, but the government had the court seal the charges until this week. The indictment alleges Hart and Trabona conspired with six unnamed Amite residents and had them pay voters $20 apiece to vote for them and other specified candidates. Prosecutors also allege Hart drove a seventh voter to the polls in the primary and general elections and paid that voter $20 each time to vote for him and other specified candidates.

The indictment alleges Trabona met with some of those vote buyers in his office at the police department and gave them checks as large as $500 to pay other voters and give them lists of whom to support, including Trabona, Hart and others.

Hart also met with the vote buyers and gave them stacks of ballots, then asked them to keep notebooks listing people they paid to vote for Trabona, Hart and others, according to the indictment. Trabona allegedly told some of the vote buyers who wanted to work for his campaign that Hart was “handling everything” for Trabona’s campaign.

Hart then allegedly provided money and lists of candidates for the vote buyers, the indictment says.

Because the election included the federal races for president and U.S. Senate, paying money for votes -- even in local races -- is considered a federal crime.

They are each charged with a conspiracy count. Trabona is charged with three counts of vote buying and aiding and abetting for his alleged payments to three of the vote buyers and Hart is charged with two counts of vote buying and aiding and abetting for paying one person to buy votes and another person to vote for himself, Trabona and their preferred slate of candidates.

Efforts to reach Hart and Trabona for comment were not immediately successful Tuesday.

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