A woman who filled out St. Louis voter registration cards for well-known, dead local politicians in 2001 was sentenced Friday to probation, community service and transcendental meditation training for election fraud and drug violations.
Michelle Robinson, 36, pleaded guilty of 13 election law violations as well as possession of crack cocaine and a crack pipe.
Robinson was part of Operation Big Vote, a bid to boost the participation of black voters in the 2001 mayoral election.
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Big Vote turned in thousands of cards on Feb. 7, 2001. Election workers noticed the names of several dead former aldermen, triggering state and federal criminal investigations.
Robinson admitted in court Friday that she had filled out 13 fake cards, including ones for now-deceased Aldermen Albert “Red” Villa and Nellene Joyce, whose daughter is St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce.
Other cards turned in by Big Vote workers had made-up names and nonexistent or vacant addresses. Some cards were filled out multiple times for the same person.
Robinson got four years of probation on both the drug and election charges but could face three years in jail if she violates her probation.
She also must complete 180 hours of community service and get training in transcendental meditation. Circuit Judge David Mason has advocated the relaxation and stress-management program for years.
Six other Big Vote workers pleaded guilty in December of 2004. Five were sentenced to probation and 100 hours of community service. One, who had a prior drug conviction, got the nine months that he had already spent in jail. One is still being sought.
A St. Louis jury found Nonaresa Montgomery, head of Big Vote, guilty in February 2005 of lying to a grand jury during the investigation. Montgomery lied when she told grand jurors that she had no way of tracking the cards that Big Vote turned in.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Mason banned her from organized political activity, sentenced her to two years’ probation and 80 hours of community service teaching young people about the importance of complying with voter registration laws.