‘Stat’ got sweet plea deal in Everett voter fraud
The feds didn’t make Stat Smith do the perp walk. There were no handouts of him stuffing absentee ballots down his pants, let alone into mailboxes. Hey, it’s not as if he’s Chuck Turner, Dianne Wilkerson or anything.
Stephen “Stat” Smith is the state representative from Everett. Or at least he was until last Tuesday, when he tendered his resignation as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors after he got caught passing around absentee ballots the way other people in Everett hand out football cards. House Speaker Bob DeLeo has got to find someone to take Stat’s place on the Joint Committee on Election Laws. You can’t make this stuff up. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will recommend that Stat spend six months in some Club Fed, instead of the maximum two years he faces for engaging in what the US criminal code calls the Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law and what the rest of us call fixing elections.
Reading the charges and the plea agreement leads to only two possible conclusions: Either Stat rolled and pointed the finger at others, or a two-year investigation by the FBI in which a staggering number of Everett residents were hauled before a grand jury has ended with a resounding thud.
Since when does manipulating elections amount to a misdemeanor? Come to think of it, since when does the FBI bother itself with misdemeanors?
The FBI referred questions to the office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, where her spokeswoman Christina Sterling-DiIorio said,“I cannot comment on how we arrive at our charging decisions.”
OK, well, is Stat cooperating against others accused of manipulating ballots?“No comment,” she said. Stat’s lawyers, Peter Bellotti and Peter Horstmann, were more forthcoming, insisting that their client is not cooperating with the government and is not pointing the finger at anyone else. According to them, this is as far as it goes.
“The government got it right,” said Horstmann.“This was a misdemeanor. It didn’t turn out to be what they thought it was.”
What the FBI thought it was was the wholesale fixing of elections in a city where politics is a blood sport and character assassination is high art.
Fred Foresteire, the Everett school superintendent, isn’t buying it.
“Stat didn’t do this alone,” said Foresteire, who with the Everett School Committee was among those who first publicly demanded that someone investigate why voters in Everett take out absentee ballots at a rate from two to four times higher than other municipalities.
Indeed, the charges against Stat say “one or more government officials assisted Smith in tracking the absentee ballots and/or intercepting those absentee ballots prior to their delivery to the voters. In those cases, the absentee ballots were cast for the unaware voters.”
The plea agreement, meanwhile, states that Stat “was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity that involved five or more participants.” Stat not only arranged for his whole family to vote by absentee ballot, he made sure ballots got mailed to the various buildings he owns. By some counts, there were upward of 60 ballots delivered to his properties. Foresteire shakes his head.“How can manipulating elections be considered a misdemeanor?” he said.
John Hanlon asks the same question. Hanlon, the former mayor of Everett, challenged Stat for the state rep seat in 2010 in one of the three elections Stat admits to fooling around with absentee ballots. Hanlon lost by 394 votes in an election in which 778 of the 4,316 ballots cast were absentee. In that race alone, 18 percent of the ballots were absentee, while in other cities and towns 5 percent is typical.
“I’ll never know if I lost fair and square,” Hanlon said.