$5 for Non-Racists; Racists are $10

Thursday Update on the East St. Louis Voter Fraud Trial…
June 2, 2005

Former Belleville “Racist” Mayor is in the spotlight in today’s testimony:

Dannita Youngblood, 30, testified during the trial of five Democratic politicians in East St. Louis that one of the defendants, her former East St. Louis city hall boss, Kelvin Ellis (who operated a prostitution ring from City Hall), told Kern during the October call that the price to pay a voter would have to be increased. In October, Kern (the former Belleville Mayor) was the Democratic candidate for the chairman’s job.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Carr, Youngblood was asked whether she was certain that Ellis talked to Kern about buying votes.

“Yes sir, he (Ellis) stated that,” answered Youngblood, who said she was then considered to be a member of Ellis’ political “A-team” and was not suspected of being a spy.

“He said he might have to start them off at $10,” because of Kern’s reputation in a nearly all black city and Democratic stronghold crucial to his hopes of getting elected County Board chairman, Youngblood testified Kern was told.

She stated that Kern, who is white, later met at his political headquarters in Belleville with herself and five other black East St. Louis politicians, including Ellis and Yvette Johnson, both on trial for vote fraud.

Youngblood testified, “He (Kern) was considered to be a racist within the city of East St. Louis.”

The Democrat A-Team made a “Vote Buying Spreadsheet” (in Excel!)to display at meetings with “racists”:

Kern was given a copy of results for a previous election for East St. Louis that outlined how many votes needed to be bought, Youngblood stated. She said she made the spreadsheet at Ellis’ direction and that Ellis first showed it to Charles Powell, the East St. Louis Democratic Committee chairman. Powell is also a defendant in the same trial but was not at the meeting with Kern.

“I was told to make copies and bring it to our meeting with Mr. Kern,” Youngblood testified about the document.

When an image of the spreadsheet was displayed for jurors on an overhead screen, Carr pointed out handwriting in the margin that Youngblood testified was hers. She said it showed that the amount of money being sought for a particular precinct was $1,320, or $5 multiplied by the 264 voters who voted for the Democratic precinct committeeman in the 2000 election. There was no explanation why it was $5 per vote and not $10. Other precincts had similar computations.

According to county election documents, Kern gave cash, made in-kind contributions or loaned $177,370 to the county Democratic Central Committee from Oct. 17 to Nov. 1, about half of what the entire committee had on hand just before the election.

Youngblood said that during the meeting, both she and McIntosh wore concealed recording devices installed by the FBI.

But Carr, the prosecutor, stopped short of eliciting testimony about what was said at the meeting with Kern and Sprague. It is not known whether there are tapes of the session, although jurors spent most of the day listening to excerpts from 19 secret tapes made by Youngblood and McIntosh of vote buying in East St. Louis allegedly involving one or more of the trial’s five defendants.

More is coming out from the testimony today in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Youngblood’s testimony was largely directed at Ellis and Johnson. Her claims included:

* Seeing Ellis pay voters in the 2002 election, when Ellis was running for precinct committeeman. It happened in the bathroom and open areas of a home near the poll, she said.

* Paying voters herself in the November election, which she insisted was at the behest of Ellis and Johnson.

* Observing Ellis flash five fingers, then 10, when asked how much voters should be paid.

* Having Ellis tell her to type a racist, anonymous letter urging Republican election judges to get blacks out of power; she said it was a ploy to keep them out of the city on Election Day.

My apologies for not putting this story in proper context, Charles Powell is “Head of the Democratic Party in East St. Louis”.

Defense Lawyer, Bruce Cook, is going to try to paint the FBI as the guilty party. The defense is also going to attack the federal witnesses.

Cook, who developed a national reputation as a personal injury lawyer in Belleville, has been an area leader in the party himself.

On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Carr said money flowed from the powerful St. Clair County Democrats based in Belleville to their counterparts in East St. Louis.

“This is a conspiracy to get poor, undereducated, addicted, uninterested persons to vote,” he said in his opening remarks. “Those who could care less; those who look forward to election day as payday.

“Literally on the eve of the election, the St. Clair County Democratic Committee sent thousands of dollars to each precinct committeeman to be spent,” Carr said. “Phony, bogus, outrageous budgets had been sent to cover up what was going on.”

Cook was first up for the defense on Tuesday and given unlimited time by U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy for his opening statement. It meandered from the Industrial Revolution to the Civil War and even touched on vote fraud allegations he said were leveled against George Washington before the American Revolution.

As far as defendent Sheila Thomaas, her attorney had this to say:

“There will be no direct evidence that my client paid anyone a thing,” he said. Thomas apparently made one secretly recorded statement that “we paid everybody,” but he said that was open to interpretation, especially when the entire conversation is heard.

Also, Cal Skinner, over at The Illinois Leader has a great article and this to add:

The beneficiaries of the alleged scheme were Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry, Illinois State Supreme Court candidate Gordon Maag and Mark Kern, the Democratic candidate for Chairman of the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners…

It used to be called “walking around money.” Now, according to the St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee’s reports to the State Board of Elections, it’s called, “election expenses.” $76,150 was reportedly paid to 51 individuals living in East St. Louis days before the 2004 election.

Powell was a member of the East St. Louis city council until he was voted out of office in April. Two weeks before that election, he was indicted for vote fraud.

In late March three other Democratic precinct committeemen–Lillie Nichols, Leroy Scott, Jr., and Terrance Stith–pled guilty to “knowingly and willfully” paying or offering “to pay voters for voting” during a federal elections.

They agreed to render assistance that, if “found to be complete and thoroughly truthful”
(underlining in the plea agreement), could lead to the U.S. Attorney’s recommendation of a reduction in their sentences. Democratic precinct worker Sandra Stith, Terrance’s wife, entered into a similar plea arrangement.

Ellis is also charged with writing a “threatening and misleading” letter to Republican election judges “in order to intimidate” them “so they would not appear at their assigned polling place.”

Cal also has a list of the names of 51 election officials and the amount they were paid for “election expenses” from the East St. Louis Democrat Party.

The trial is expected to last 2 to 4 weeks.

Update: Friday’s Proceedings

Prosecution witness Youngblood falters in cross examination. the case will resume on Tuesday. For more on Friday’s proceedings I have a new post up here.

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