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Monday, August 27, 2012

Tainted "Witnesses"

Anthony Gemma isn’t wrong when he says voter fraud has occurred over the years in Rhode Island. In fact, some of the evidence he points to was actually perpetrated by people now acting as surrogates to his campaign.

First there is Maryelyn Alba-Acevedo. Following Gemma’s infamous press event on Wednesday, she was one of the Providence residents who came forward to corroborate his accusations.
She should know, having committed voter fraud herself, according to a 2008 Providence Journal article. Alba-Acevedo was running for a state Senate seat against Juan Pichardo that year, and he made a complaint to the Board of Elections about her absentee ballots.

There’s no link to the article, and GoLocalProv also referenced the article on Friday in a piece similar to this one.  Here’s an excerpt from the article (August, 26, 2008 by Daniel Barbarisi) from a copy provided by Alba-Acevedo in an email she sent to the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee email listserv at the time:

One candidate for state Senate, Maryelyn Alba-Acevedo, turned in more than 100 applications for mail ballots, including more than the allowed 50 witnessed by one notary. Thirty-six of her applications said the applicants could not vote for religious reasons, a rarely used exemption.
The Board of Canvassers turned to the state police for an investigation of Alba-Acevedo’s ballots, and after receiving a report back from the police, rejected her ballots Friday.
“We found that some of those applications are tainted, and that’s why they were not accepted by us,” Board of Canvassers Chairman and Secretary Laurence K. Flynn said.
According to the state police, many of Alba-Acevedo’s mail ballot applications came from a high rise, where she offered mail ballots to people who may not have known what they meant.
“The people who signed it were unsure what they were signing,” said state police Major Steven G. O’Donnell.
O’Donnell said that, having given their report to the Providence Board of Canvassers, the state police consider the matter closed, and Alba-Acevedo will not face any criminal prosecution.
video recently leaked to the Journal indicates absentee ballots were purchased from high rises on Grand and Vineyard streets. Ironically, that is where Alba-Acevedo collected absentee ballots that were nullified by the Board of Elections as a result of the state police investigation. The video was secretly recorded by Gemma’s investigators. Gemma told the Journal he is not responsible for the leak.

Also in the video, the Gemma operative can be heard saying about the absentee ballots, “Are these Wilbur’s people? Because Wilbur is supposed to help us too.”
Ostensibly, they are referring to Providence City Councilor Wilbur Jennings.
Jennings, like Alba-Acevedo stepped forward after Gemma’s Wednesday press conference to say that he too has knowledge about voter fraud in Providence.
Also like Alba-Acevedo, he has knowledge of it because he was accused of it in 2008 at the same time she was. In fact, he was implicated in the very same Providence Journal article. Here’s an excerpt:
[Alba-Acevedo's] political ally, Wilbur W. Jennings Jr., who is running for state representative, turned in close to 50 [absentee ballots]. Of those, nearly three dozen listed the applicants as so disabled that they could not vote: including Jennings’ three sons and three sisters.
Alba-Acevedo’s and Jennings’ primary opponents, Rep. Thomas Slater and Sen. Juan Pichardo, both incumbents, say the disabilities and the religious exemptions are fake. They have hired a lawyer and are challenging the legitimacy of Alba-Acevedo’s and Jennings’ mail ballots.
Jennings, 64, the former director of Providence’s Department of Public Works and a seven-time candidate for state and city office, submitted mail ballot applications for his sons, Darrell, 31; Tremaine, 22, and Wilbur William, 23, who are all listed as living at Jennings’ home at 115 Sinclair Ave.
The applications each affirm that Jennings’ sons are “incapacitated to such an extent that it would be an undue hardship to vote at the polls because of illness, mental or physical disability, blindness or a serious impairment of mobility.”
Jennings said his opponents are playing politics and taking advantage of his family’s misfortunes.
Darrell, he said, may never work again due to liver problems. “He is on disability — he’s got liver problems. He’s sick, he’s very, very sick,” Jennings said. “He’s been in and out of hospitals.”
His second son, Tremaine, has also had it rough, and he stays at the house often, Jennings said.
“He’s in and out, he has problems. He comes here, he fights with his girlfriend sometimes, then he comes here.” Though he said that perhaps he had made an error in listing Tremaine as seriously disabled.
About his third son, Wilbur William, however, the elder Jennings said he definitely should not have listed him as disabled, and has withdrawn the application.
While Anthony Gemma, the self-proclaimed “smoking gun” evidence he presented on Wednesday and even a secret surveillance video made by his campaign operatives and given to the Projo has made no link of voter fraud to David Cicilline, those who have been either caught or accused of tampering with votes in the past are working with the Gemma campaign to help him traffic his to-date hollow accusations.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.