LOS ANGELES – Four people indicted last year in connection with a scheme in which homeless people on Skid Row were allegedly offered money and cigarettes in exchange for false and forged signatures on ballot petitions and voter registration forms have pleaded no contest, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday. A no contest plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea.
Richard Howard, 64, and Louis Thomas Wise, 37, pleaded no contest Friday, July 24, to one felony count each of subscribing a fictitious name or the name of another to an initiative petition and registration of a fictitious person, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Howard was immediately sentenced to three years of probation and a suspended three-year state prison sentence that may be imposed if he violates his probation, while Wise was sentenced to three years probation and a suspended 16-month state prison sentence.
Christopher Joseph Williams, 41, and Nickey Demelvin Huntley, 45, each pleaded no contest to one felony count of circulating an initiative or petition containing false, forged or fictitious names, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
A fifth defendant, Norman Hall, 62, pleaded guilty Feb. 19 to one felony count of circulating a petition with false, forged or fictitious names and was sentenced to one year in county jail, 100 hours of community service and three years probation.
The five were indicted in June 2019 along with three other people who are still awaiting trial. Jakari Fati Mardis, 37, who was also indicted, is still being sought, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The defendants allegedly engaged in the solicitation of hundreds of false and/or forged signatures on state ballot petitions and voter registration forms by offering homeless people $1 and/or cigarettes for their participation during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, prosecutors said.