VOTE-PROBE ARRESTS INCLUDE COUNCILMEN

Troy council president, who is among four charged in absentee ballot case dating to 2009, pleads not guilty

BOB GARDINIER STAFF WRITER
Section: Main,  Page: A1

Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Correction: The sentence for Troy Councilman John Brown was incorrect in an A1 story Wednesday. He will be sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation.

TROY -- The City Council president, a councilman and two others were arrested Tuesday and charged with felonies for allegedly forging absentee ballots in the 2009 primary to benefit Democratic candidates.


Those arrested early Tuesday included City Council President Clement Campana, Councilman John Brown and political operatives Anthony Renna and Anthony DeFiglio.


So far seven elected or appointed officials and operatives have been charged in the two-year probe into allegations that scores of absentee ballots were forged to benefit Democratic candidates in the 2009 Working Families Party primary. Most voters targeted lived in Troy Housing Authority apartments and rarely, if ever, voted. They were allegedly targeted because they were unfamiliar with the process.


Campana appeared with his attorney, E. Stewart Jones, and was arraigned on an indictment charging him with first-degree falsifying business records and four counts of illegal voting, all felonies; and a count of conspiracy to promote or prevent election, a misdemeanor.


He could face up to seven years on the charges.


Campana appeared before visiting Supreme Court Justice George J. Pulver Jr. and pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance pending further court action. Campana, who refused comment, did not seek re-election so he will be council president only until the end of the year.


"Clem has been waiting a long time for his day in court and will be found not guilty," Jones said following the court session.


Brown, a Democratic councilman, also appeared before Pulver and decided to forgo indictment and plead guilty to a felony count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument lodged against him by Special Prosecutor Trey Smith.


"I knowingly submitted a forged ballot before the election was final," Brown told Pulver when ask to explain what he did.


Brown will be sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years of probation.


Brown did not seek re-election and will be off the council by year's end.


Also entering pleas Tuesday were Democratic operatives Anthony Renna and Anthony DeFiglio.


Renna pleaded guilty to second-degree forgery and will be sentenced to community service.


"I forged a ballot on Sept. 14, 2009 in the name of voter Peter Testa," Renna admitted to Pulver.


DeFiglio, a former Troy Housing Authority clerk, pleaded guilty to first-degree falsifying business records.


"I solicited an absentee ballot vote from Elizabeth Montalvo and had her leave some fields blank," DeFiglio told Pulver.


"You purposely left fields blank so you could falsify the vote?" Smith asked DeFiglio.


"Yes, that's right," DeFiglio replied.


DeFiglio's sentence is yet to be determined but Pulver told him it would not involve jail or prison time.


All were released on their own recognizance and none of the men commented after the court session. Sentencing dates have not been set.


Brown's brother Dan Brown, a political operative, was also named as a target early on in the investigation and recently testified before the grand jury. Brown's attorney, Phil Steck, has said his client received immunity from prosecution for his testimony.


Renna, a City Council aide and former city marshal, appeared Dec. 6 before the grand jury without counsel. Renna is a fixture in city Democratic campaign circles.


John Brown spent most of the day Oct. 27 in front of the special grand jury. Campana previously said he refused to testify before the grand jury.


DeFiglio, who in a statement to investigators said that absentee ballot rigging in the city was a "normal political tactic," testified before the first grand jury on Dec. 8, 2010.


Last year, the first grand jury indicted Councilman Michael LoPorto and Democratic County Elections Commissioner Edward McDonough on numerous felony forgery charges. They face trial next month.


Smith also entered a decision Tuesday dropping 13 of the 42 counts against LoPorto because a handwriting expert concluded that former city clerk William McInerney forged the ballots and not LoPorto.


In August, McInerney pleaded guilty to a charge that he signed a voter's signature to an absentee primary ballot in 2009. His sentencing is pending.


Councilmen Kevin McGrath and Gary Galuski have testified before the grand juries, as have several voters and board of elections workers.


McGrath cooperated and was granted immunity, but Smith said Tuesday that grand jurors failed to hear enough evidence to charge Galuski.


"I would like the public to know that if there is anyone out there who can provide information on Mr. Galuski forging any ballots to call State Police Investigator John Ogden at 279-4427," Smith said.


Reach Bob Gardinier at 454-5696 or bgardinier@timesunion.com.





PULLOUT:


"Clem has been waiting a long time for his day in court and will be found not guilty."


E. Stewart Jones


Attorney for Clement Campana