Two small town city officials could face prison after pleading guilty to federal charges in a vote buying scheme. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced, Jerry Trabona, 72, the former Chief of Police in Amite City, LA and Kristian Hart, 49, a current Amite City Councilmember, pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay and offering to pay voters residing in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, for voting in the 2016 open primary election and the 2016 open general election. 

Trabona and Hart admitted to agreeing with each other and others to pay or offer to pay voters during elections in which the defendants were candidates, and in which federal candidates appeared on the same ballot. 

Trabona purportedly gave a $500 check from his campaign to one of the six conspirators, identified in the indictment only as persons A, B, C, D, E, F and G.  According to the indictment, Person A met Trabona at his Amite Police Department office to exchange the check. Trabona also had Person B meet him at the police department where, according to court records, Trabona recruited person B to work for his campaign. Evidence showed Trabona wrote a $500 check to a family member of Person B; funds which were allocated to paying voters.  When Person B went back to Trabona about working for his campaign, Trabona reportedly told Person B that Hart was now “handling everything” for his campaign. 

The court records show the two accused men allegedly spent at least $2,400 to buy votes in the 2016 election. Hart won reelection to the council in 2016 and again in 2020. Trabona ran for mayor and loss to Walter Daniels, who won outright in the primary election.

In addition to the conspiracy with Trabona, Hart pleaded guilty to three counts of paying and offering to pay voters during both the 2016 and 2020 elections. In both elections, Hart was running for a seat on the Amite City Council, which is the position he currently holds. Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 1 and face up to five years in prison on each count. 

“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that illegal voting, including vote buying, has no place in our nation’s electoral system,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite said Thursday after the plea deal was reached in federal court in New Orleans.

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