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Amite’s former police chief and current councilmember indicted for vote-buying scheme involvement

Former Amite Police Chief Jerry Trabona and current Councilman Kris Hart are charged with...
Former Amite Police Chief Jerry Trabona and current Councilman Kris Hart are charged with allegedly conspiring to buy votes and multiple counts of buying votes.(WAFB)
Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 5:10 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2021 at 5:24 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A federal grand jury in New Orleans has accused former Amite City Police Chief Jerry Trabona and current Amite City Councilman Kristian “Kris” Hart of allegedly conspiring to, and following through with, paying for votes in two 2016 federal elections.

Trabona, 73, and Hart, 49, both of Amite City, are charged with conspiracy to buy votes and multiple counts of buying votes. They are scheduled for their initial court appearance on Friday, Dec. 17 before US Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Kris Hart
Kris Hart(WAFB)

During the past month, both Sidney Smith, 68, of Amite City, and Calvin Batiste, 64, of Independence, pleaded guilty to their involvement in vote-buying in Tangipahoa Parish during the 2016 election period, according to the justice department.

Jerry Trabona
Jerry Trabona(WAFB)

On Monday, Dec. 14, the US Department of Justice unsealed the indictment the grand jury issued to charge Trabona and Hart with criminally violating federal election laws as part of a scheme to pay for votes in a federal election.

According to the indictment, Trabona and Hart conspired to and did unlawfully pay voters to cast their ballots for certain candidates during the 2016 Open Primary Election and the 2016 Open General Election in Tangipahoa Parish. The indictment alleges that, in furtherance of the scheme, the conspirators solicited and hired individuals to identify potential voters, transported those voters to the polls where they were provided with the names and candidate numbers of candidates, and paid the voters to cast their ballots for candidates.

If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.

Trial Attorneys Rosaleen O’Gara and Michael N. Lang, of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Irene M. González, of the Eastern District of Louisiana, are prosecuting the case.

Smith pleaded guilty on Nov. 29, and Batiste pleaded guilty on Dec. 8. Both face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Their sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trabona ended his fourth term as the town’s police chief in December 2020. Hart is now in his second term on the council.

The FBI is investigating the case.

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