Four Democrats Charged With Unlawful Possession of Ballots

Four Democrats Charged With Unlawful Possession of Ballots

Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney Patrick J. Griffin has charged four Bridgeport residents in connection with mishandling absentee ballots during the city’s 2019 mayoral primary.

According to a news release from the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice, all four campaign workers are facing charges of unlawful possession of absentee ballots and “other election-related charges.” The charges were brought following an investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission, as stated in the release on Tuesday.

Alfredo Castillo, 52; Wanda Geter-Pataky, 67; Josephine Edmonds, 62; and Nilsa Heredia, 61, were all released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to appear in court again on June 24.

The Connecticut Post reported that Geter-Pataky serves as the deputy head of the city’s Democratic Town Committee. Castillo is a city councilman who supported Democratic Mayor Joe Ganim’s campaign. Heredia and Edmonds worked on 2019 Democratic mayoral campaigns — Heredia for Ganim and Edmonds for state Sen. Marilyn Moore, Ganim’s primary competitor.

Each of the accused faces multiple charges, as detailed in the release:

“Specifically, Edmonds, Geter-Pataky, and Heredia were charged with Tampering With a Witness, in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 53a-151; Geter-Pataky, Castillo, and Heredia were charged with Misrepresenting Eligibility Requirements for Voting by Absentee Ballot in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 9-135(b); Castillo, Edmonds, and Heredia were charged with Failure to Maintain an Absentee Ballot Distribution List, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 9-140(k)(2); Edmonds and Heredia were charged with being present When an Absentee Ballot Applicant Executes an Absentee Ballot, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 9-140(b)e; and Geter-Pataky and Castillo were charged with Failure to Sign as Assister on an Absentee Ballot, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 9-140(a),” it stated.

The release emphasized that none of the four had been tried yet and are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.

After an initial SEEC civil investigation, the commission voted to refer the four individuals to the Division of Criminal Justice for potential criminal charges. The DCJ conducted a nearly year-long investigation before filing the charges.

“Integrity of our voting process is vital to our democracy,” Chief State’s Attorney Griffin said in the statement. “I appreciate the attention and time the Statewide Prosecution Bureau put into these investigations. I hope these prosecutions will send a message that deters tampering with election results in the future in Connecticut.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim issued a statement to WVIT indicating that he had no specific information about the charges beyond what had been reported in the media.

“We only learned through the media that individuals from both 2019 mayoral primary campaigns have been charged with election violations,” the statement said. “We have not been provided with any details other than what is contained in media reports.”

In a follow-up statement on Tuesday afternoon, Ganim expressed his expectation that the courts will resolve the matter and uphold the “integrity of the voting process.”

“Whether it’s people accused from the Moore campaign or my campaign — any irregularity is unacceptable,” the second statement said, according to WVIT. “We all agree that the integrity of the voting process is vital to our democracy.

“Charges that question that integrity are of concern. I always stand for maintaining the rights of the voters and a fair election. These matters pertaining to both 2019 campaigns are now in the courts and will be addressed through the justice system,” the mayor’s statement added.

The news release from the DCJ is provided in its entirety below.

Chief State’s Attorney Patrick J. Griffin today announced that four campaign workers involved in the 2019 Bridgeport Democratic mayoral primary have been criminally charged in connection with the misuse of absentee ballots.

Inspectors from the Statewide Prosecution Bureau in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney arrested Alfredo Castillo, age 52, Wanda Geter-Pataky, age 67, Nilsa Heredia, age 61, and Josephine Edmonds, age 62, all of Bridgeport, and charged them with Unlawful Possession of Absentee Ballots, in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 9-146b(d) and other election-related charges. Three of the four suspects are also charged with Tampering with a Witness, in violation of Connecticut General Statues of § 53a-151.

Specifically, Edmonds, Geter-Pataky, and Heredia were charged with Tampering With a Witness, in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 53a-151; Geter-Pataky, Castillo and Heredia were charged with Misrepresenting Eligibility Requirements for Voting by Absentee Ballot in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 9-135(b); Castillo, Edmonds and Heredia were charged with Failure to Maintain an Absentee Ballot Distribution List, in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 9-140(k)(2); Edmonds and Heredia were charged with being present When an Absentee Ballot Applicant Executes an Absentee Ballot, in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 9-140(b)e; and Geter-Pataky and Castillo were charged with Failure to Sign as Assister on an Absentee Ballot, in violation of Connecticut General Statues § 9-140(a).

Following allegations of the mishandling of absentee ballots in the September 2019 Democratic primary election for mayor of the City of Bridgeport, the office of the Secretary of State sent a formal letter of referral to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, or “SEEC”. The SEEC subsequently opened a civil investigation resulting in a vote to refer evidence of criminal conduct to the Division of Criminal Justice on June 7, 2023. The referral was accepted by the Statewide Prosecution Bureau within the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

“Integrity of our voting process is vital to our democracy,” Chief State’s Attorney Griffin said. “I appreciate the attention and time the Statewide Prosecution Bureau put into these investigations. I hope these prosecutions will send a message that deters tampering with election results in the future in Connecticut.”

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Geter-Pataky is accused of failing to sign as an assister on an absentee ballot application that she had filled out on behalf of a prospective voter and misrepresenting eligibility requirements for voting by absentee ballot when she reportedly told a citizen not to vote in person and that she would pick up the citizen’s absentee ballot. The citizen later told SEEC investigators that the defendant told her not to speak to anyone about the matter.

Court records show Heredia instructed prospective voters on which candidate to select on their absentee ballots and misrepresented eligibility requirements for voting by absentee ballot. The defendant admitted to SEEC investigators that she did not submit an absentee ballot distribution list to the City of Bridgeport Clerk’s Office.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Castillo is accused of failing to maintain an absentee ballot distribution list, misrepresenting eligibility requirements for voting by absentee ballot and failing to sign as an assister on an absentee ballot application in August 2019. According to a deposition with the SEEC on October 21, 2021, Castillo denied helping the prospective voter fill out the application but later admitted he had filled out portions of the application.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Edmonds is accused of being present when four prospective voters filled out their absentee ballots and took possession of them when she left their home. She is also accused of failing to maintain an absentee ballot distribution list and tampering with a witness for having told her not to testify truthfully in court.  

All four defendants were released on promises to appear in Bridgeport Superior Court, Geographical Area No. 2, on June 24, 2024.

These charges are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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