Tea Party figurehead and Paladino chauffeur John a.k.a. “Rus” Thompson pled guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor count of “offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree”. District Attorney John Flynn offered to withdraw the felony charges, and Thompson’s plea will enable him to avoid the possible 1 year jail sentence for three years of probation.
Thompson and his wife were evicted from their home on Grand Island in 2014, and in October of that year, his wife notified the Erie County Board of Elections that they were moving out of the county and to remove them from the voter rolls. You don’t get to vote where you feel at home, but where you are actually domiciled. That means Thompson was eligible only to vote at his new home in Niagara County. Instead, when Thompson showed up to vote — improperly — on Grand Island, where he didn’t live — he knowingly and falsely completed a sworn affidavit averring that he was eligible to vote there.
This was a lie made under oath. He was indicted for felony voter fraud - something Thompson once considered to be treason. Thompson was offered a plea, but rejected it despite the overwhelming evidence against him. His defense seems to be: 1. it’s not like he voted twice!; and 2. he just did what the election inspectors told him to do. The real question is whether Thompson committed voter fraud out of stupidity or malicious intent. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t vote twice; he voted to influence elections that have nothing to do with him, and the election inspectors undoubtedly recognized Thompson when he showed up at his former polling place on Grand Island and certainly would have helped him with a provisional ballot — that’s because how are they supposed to know that he no longer lived there? Throughout, he blamed his enemies — real and perceived — for the underlying eviction, for the prosecution, and everything else that could feasibly enable him to avoid responsibility for his own crime; at least until Thursday’s guilty plea.
The DA’s office sets the facts out succinctly, and confirms that Thompson knew exactly what he was doing, and did it multiple times:
The misdemeanor crime of offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree is defined as a situation where a person, knowing that a written instrument contains a false statement or false information, offers or presents it to a public office or servant with the knowledge or belief that it will be filed with, registered or recorded in or otherwise become a part of the records of such public office or public servant.
In order to convict someone of this crime, the prosecution would need to prove:
1. That the defendant offered or presented a written instrument to a public office or public servant;
2. That the defendant did so with the knowledge or belief that it would be filed with, registered, or recorded in, or otherwise become a part of the records of that public office or public servant;
3. That the written instrument contained a false statement or false information; and
4. That the defendant knew that the written instrument contained a false statement or false information.
So this isn’t about something being accidental, or that Thompson can blame some innocent poll worker for telling him to do the wrong thing — pleading guilty to this specifically lays out that Niagara County resident Thompson presented a false statement under oath to an Erie County Board of Elections worker in order to vote illegally in Erie County.