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March 11, 2014

Ohio prosecutor, upon learning of mental health issues, helps undo 5-year prison term for voter fraud

This local article from Cincinnati, which is headlined "Poll worker who voted illegally freed from prison," reports on a remarkable development in a remarkable voting fraud case thanks to the work of a new defense attorney and a thoughtful local prosecutor. Here are the details:

The former Hamilton County Board of Elections worker convicted last year of illegal voting and sent to prison for five years was released Tuesday because of mental health issues. Melowese Richardson, 58, was too ashamed to mention her bipolar disorder last year and forbid her attorney, Bill Gallagher, from including it as part of her attempt to elude prison. But after she was convicted last spring of four counts of illegal voting, her new attorney appealed the case and raised the issue.

When he sentenced Richardson last year, Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman made stinging comments about Richardson, her criminal history, her violation of elections board rules and Ohio laws and her selfishness. "I was not aware of her mental health issues" at that time, the judge said Tuesday, because she refused to allow her attorney to mention it.

After her new attorney, David Singleton, took her case on appeal, he presented her mental health history to Prosecutor Joe Deters. He agreed her bipolar disorder was so severe that she shouldn't be imprisoned. "We went to Joe Deters with those records and Joe immediately recognized that it was inappropriate to have her locked up for five years when the (judge) didn't know she had mental health issues," Singleton said....

In the Tuesday hearing that lasted just minutes, Richardson said nothing except to briefly answer questions, saying she was aware of what was happening and approved. The judge dismissed her May 2013 conviction and five-year prison sentence and allowed her to plead no contest to four counts of illegal voting, the same charges on which she was convicted. That allowed the judge to re-sentence her, placing her on five years of probation and releasing her from the Hamilton County Justice Center after eight months in prison.

Richardson's case drew national headlines last year because of the allegations of illegal voting across the country – and because she was a Hamilton County poll worker from 1998 until her arrest. She was convicted of voting twice in the 2012 election and voting three times – in 2008, 2011 and 2012 – for her sister, Montez Richardson, who has been in a coma since 2003.

Richardson was previously convicted of threatening to kill a witness in a criminal case against her brother, of stealing, of drunken driving and of beating someone in a bar fight.

Persons familiar with Ohio policy and politics know that Hamilton County is a fair conservative part of the state and that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters is widely know for having put a significant number of murderers on the state's death row. But as this case usefully highlights, state and local prosecutors are often able and often willing to reconsider or resist the use of lengthy prison terms when defense lawyers are able to effectively highlight why such a sentence may be unjust and/or ineffective.

March 11, 2014 at 04:49 PM | Permalink


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What a wuss.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 11, 2014 10:51:17 PM

One may not make a diagnosis of a mood disorder in someone who gets high because intoxication looks like a mood disorder.

If she has the bipolar (as a bunch of Southern ladies called it in a heated discussion of husbands over drinks at poolside), she most likely has the Time Magazine bipolar, not the Kraepelinian bipolar. Today, anyone who throws a tantrum gets that diagnosis in a scandal of over diagnosis for insurance fraud purposes by the psychiatric profession. If you are accurate and say, tantrum, no pay. If you over diagnose and say a serious mood disorder, big pay.

Bipolar disorder happens to be the sole diagnosis in all of medicine that is more frequent in the rich and successful. Based on her failures in life, it may be presumptively ruled out. Bipolar patients may commit crimes during an episode, but they are impulsive, not profit making as in this case.

Criminals can have wide mood swings. One differentiating feature is that when they get something they want, they calm down in a millisecond, an impossibility in people with the bipolar.

Of course, as said many times, mental illness should be an aggravating factor, not a mitigating factor as it is in the upside down, Twilight Zone world of the lawyer.

That being said, 5 years of incapacitation for voter fraud seems excessive, and the 8 months served seems sufficient retribution. The 5 years of probation supervision should help her stop her addictions, actually benefiting her.

In the end, the judge was correct in revising her sentence.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 11, 2014 11:59:58 PM

One may not …
“… revising her sentence.

▲ Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 11, 2014 11:59:58 PM ▲\

Nice write , SC !

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady @ 43209 | Mar 12, 2014 11:05:19 AM

Yes, I'm sure *Joe Deters* made this decision because he is a wuss and a bleeding heart.

Gee whiz. For you law and order internet trolls it really is a one-way ratchet, maximalist-punishment-all-the-time-under-all-circumstances, world, isn't it? I mean if someone with the track record of Deters doesn't get any kind of deference in the sense of "well if he agreed to it, there must have been a compelling reason justifying some degree of mercy/mitigation," then what you are really saying is that that kind of justification does not exist in any case, ever.

In other news, WTF, Ohio/Hamilton County, how was this woman still employed as a poll worker with that criminal history?!?!

Posted by: anon | Mar 12, 2014 11:11:17 AM

I have to hand it to the prosecutor and the judge in this case. I have seen, heard and read about many examples of prosecutorial abuse and the judicial affirmation (or at least lack of condemnation) thereof. It's nice to read about a case in which everyone involved was truly focused on seeking justice even though the defendant was convicted and there was apparently no doubt about her guilt.

Posted by: Denean Hill | Mar 12, 2014 11:35:41 AM

Voter fraud is a serious crime. This woman did it repeatedly, and over a long period of time--and had a criminal history to boot. She deserved every day of the five year sentence.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 12, 2014 10:38:03 PM

Fed: Voter fraud is a serious crime after changing the result of an election. Before changing the result, it should be a summary offense, like a parking violation, a malum prohibitum.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 13, 2014 7:54:39 AM

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