Judge dismisses Nevada fake voter case for lack of jurisdiction

A Clark County judge dismissed charges against the six Nevada Republicans who submitted a list of invalid votes for former President Donald Trump in 2020, ruling that the county was not the appropriate jurisdiction for the case .

At a hearing Friday morning in Clark County District Court, Judge Mary Kay Holthus said she was not convinced by state attorneys’ arguments that Clark County was the county appropriate to hear the case. Voter attorneys had argued that a more appropriate venue would be in Carson City, where the illegitimate signing ceremony took place, or in Douglas County, from where the fake voter documents were originally mailed.

Clark County is more Democratic, meaning a jury could be less favorable to Republican defendants.

“This is literally, in my opinion, a crime that happened in another jurisdiction,” Holthus said. “It’s rightfully up North and not here.”

Immediately after the ruling, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said “the judge got it wrong” and that his office would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. A trial scheduled for January was canceled pending the High Court’s decision.

The state is unable to file suit in the North because a three-year statute of limitations expired in December.

Maggie McLetchie, an attorney for one of the defendants, said of the State: “It’s over. »

This is the first time a case related to the Trump campaign’s efforts to submit a false voter roll has been dismissed. Similar lawsuits are taking place in four other swing states — Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin — implicated in the Trump campaign’s efforts to submit a false slate of electors following its 2020 election loss to the president Joe Biden.

The six defendants – Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, Republican National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, Clark County GOP Chairman Jesse Law, state party Vice Chairman Jim Hindle, Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice — were each indicted on two counts by a grand jury in December for their roles in submitting false election documents to federal and state election authorities that purported to cast Nevada’s six electoral votes for Trump.

The defendants were charged with offering a false instrument to file and use a false instrument, charges which together carry sentences of two to nine years in prison.

In a sign of Holthus’s skepticism about jurisdiction, she requested last month that the state provide a list of reasons why Clark County was the appropriate venue for the case.

Prosecutors listed 14 reasons why Clark County was the appropriate jurisdiction, including the fact that two of the defendants — Law and McDonald — live in Clark County and that some mail related to the bogus election scheme passed through the county. Most notably, fraudulent election materials were mailed to a federal judge in Las Vegas.

Attorney Richard Wright, who represents McDonald, argued that the fraudulent documents addressed to Miranda Du, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Nevada, were mistakenly sent to Las Vegas. Du is based in Reno and the documents were never opened in Las Vegas, according to testimony from the court clerk, who Wright said was held by the grand jury.

“He made a temporary pit stop in Las Vegas,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, Matthew Rashbrook, an attorney with the attorney general’s office, said Clark County became involved in the scheme when those documents were mailed to Las Vegas, even though they were redirected to Reno.

Holthus ultimately concluded that this was not enough to justify Clark County as the most appropriate location.

Rashbrook also argued that no county could have complete jurisdiction over the case, to which Holthus responded by saying she did not agree “100 percent.”

Wright also said the motion to dismiss the case was supported by a 2021 Nevada Supreme Court decision regarding murders in Washoe and Douglas counties. The High Court ruled at the time that if a venue was only involved in preparatory acts and the formation of intent, it was not a sufficient venue for a trial. Holthus did not cite the case in making his decision.

The ruling ends months of back-and-forth between election lawyers and state prosecutors, which included allegations of withheld evidence. It also marks a loss for Ford, a Democrat, in a case that has had national resonance.

Ford said current state law “does not directly concern the driver in question” during a May 2023 hearing for SB133, a bill that would have criminalized such schemes (and was later vetoed of Republican Governor Joe Lombardo). Seven months later, Ford filed suit, saying his office had been investigating the project for years and denying any political motivation.

The charges came days before the three-year deadline for filing charges expired.

Validity of fees

Although the validity of the accusations was ultimately not addressed Friday, lawyers for the fake voters had previously challenged the constitutionality of the allegations. They argued that the state’s claim that the fake voters aimed to defraud state and federal officials was inaccurate and that the documents were not forgeries but rather authentic documents containing “false information”.

That challenge hinged on grand jury testimony from Kenneth Chesebro, a Trump campaign lawyer who cooperated with the state’s investigation last year by saying the purpose of the false documents was to have ready backups. cases where courts overturn election results in contested states. .

State investigators noted that the Nevada Supreme Court in December rejected the Trump campaign’s legal challenge to the 2020 election. 8 — six days before the fake election ceremony. The prosecution argued that this showed that the fake voter documents should not have been necessary as part of Chesebro’s scheme, thus proving that the defendants intended to defraud state and county officials. federal government.

But lawyers representing the defendants said that plan was never discussed with the fake Nevada voters, but only as part of a broader strategy with other members of the Trump team. Additionally, despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling, the Trump campaign was still allowed to file a petition for review of the case – also known as a writ of certiorari – with the state Supreme Court -United States, which was ultimately never transferred.

Those arguments were scheduled to be considered Friday, but the dismissal of the case on other grounds rendered them moot.

Updated 6/21/24 at 12:05 p.m. to correct that Ford said the judge made a bad decision, and again at 1:25 p.m. to add additional details.

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