Republican Political Activist Pleads Not Guilty to Voter Fraud

On Thursday, June 16, a Republican political activist pleaded not guilty to five felony counts of election law violation. Rus Thompson, a Tea Party Republican who supported Carl Paladino when he ran for governor of New York State, could be sent to state prison if convicted. WGRZ’s Scott Levin spoke to Barry Covert, a constitutional attorney, about the case and whether Thompson’s political leanings might have played a part in his charges. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.

Is Thompson being singled out?

Mr. Covert explained to WGRZ that charges like this “aren’t brought very often” and that “there’s not a lot of case law on them. And what the state law says and what the cases discuss is it’s really the intent of the voter. Where do you live? Where have you lived? Do you plan to return to your old domicile?”

He went on to explain that, in this case, “it appears that [Thompson] was evicted from his house in Grand Island. He was temporarily in Niagara Falls. He still was doing a lot of business and activity in Grand Island and he claims that he was going to return there. And that seems to be very standard and accepted. And usually these cases go to the Board of Elections, not to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution initially.”

When asked if Thompson was being singled out in this case, Mr. Covert responded, “Well, I don’t want to say that because I haven’t seen everything in relation to this, but it does seem as though he’s very politically active.” He went on to say that “there aren’t very many prosecutions and it didn’t go to the Board of Elections first to decide. So, from 10,000 feet away, it does look like he might be getting singled out.”

What’s next in this case?

Mr. Covert told WGRZ what he expects the next steps in the case to be now that Thompson has been charged. “I would expect that his lawyers are going to file motions,” he said. “They’re going to ask why it is that he was singled out if he was in this case. Why didn’t the case first go to the Board of Elections for the Board of Elections to make a decision as to whether he qualified to be able to vote in Grand Island?” Mr. Covert explained that it is not required that you actually live in the city in which you’re voting and that the issue is what your intent is and how you would answer questions such as, “Have you lived there? Do you plan to return there? Like college students.”

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.