Amite councilman, ex-police chief indicted for alleged vote buying


File photo. (Credit: Getty Images)

AMITE CITY, La. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a Louisiana town council member and a former police chief in relation to an alleged 2016 vote-buying scheme, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Amite City Councilmember Kristian Hart, 49, and former Police Chief Jerry Trabona, 73, have been charged with conspiracy to buy votes and multiple counts of buying votes, according to a Tuesday news release from the department. Their initial court appearance is scheduled for Friday.

The indictment says Hart and Trabona conspired to and did unlawfully pay voters to cast ballots for certain candidates during the 2016 primary and general elections in Tangipahoa Parish. It also claims they hired people to identify potential voters and drove those voters to the polls, where they were given the names of candidates to choose.

Hart was elected to the council in a December 2016 runoff and Trabona was reelected as chief the month before, according to WWL-TV. He served 15 years at the helm of the police department before unsuccessfully running for Amite City mayor in 2020.

If convicted, the men could face a maximum of five years in prison for each count. They didn’t respond to the station’s requests for comment.

In addition to the officials’ indictment, two Tangipahoa Parish residents recently admitted wrongdoing for their involvement in the vote-buying, the Justice Department said. Sidney Smith, 68, of Amite City, pleaded guilty Nov. 29 and Calvin Batiste, 64, of Independence, pleaded Dec. 8. They each face a maximum of five years in prison.

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