Three Bullskin Township supervisors charged with voter fraud were admitted into a pretrial diversionary program in Fayette County Court on Tuesday.
Supervisors Walter “Deb” Wiltrout, 67, Thomas Scott Keefer, 59, and William Geary, 63, are charged with violating state election code, and Geary and Keefer also face charges of conspiracy to do the same.
District Attorney Jack R. Heneks Jr., before recommending that the men be admitted to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, explained to Senior Judge Ralph C. Warman that he believes the arrest and prosecution of the defendants sends a powerful message that they need to know the laws regarding voter registration and follow those laws.
Attorney Richard Bower, who represented Wiltrout, and attorney Jack Purcell, representing Keefer and Geary, noted that participation in the ARD program is not an admission of guilt, and that each of the supervisors maintains his innocence.
Wiltrout, Keefer and Geary were each admitted into ARD for six months, and Warman ordered them each to serve 50 hours of community service within 60 days of entering the program.
Warman told the men they could do community service for Bullskin Township, their respective churches or any other non-profit organization.
According to Warman, if the defendants successfully abide by the terms and conditions of the ARD program, the charges against them will be dismissed and they will have the opportunity to have their records expunged.
The charges followed a county grand jury investigation. In June, Judge Steve P. Leskinen granted a six-month extension of the grand jury, meaning they will continue to convene until Dec. 11.
Authorities, upon Leskinen’s acceptance of the grand jury’s presentments, alleged that Keefer and Geary violated the state election code during the Bullskin Township supervisor race by assisting voters in completing absentee ballots despite knowing that some of those people did not meet the qualifications of an absentee voter, and that they conspired together to do so.
In a third presentment, the grand jury recommended charges against Wiltrout, who is chairman of the township supervisors, alleging the same election code violations that Keefer and Geary were charged with committing, minus the conspiracy charge.
The third presentment indicated Wiltrout assisted two Bullskin Township residents in filling out absentee ballots. The couple properly applied to vote by absentee ballot based on unspecified medical conditions, the grand jury stated. However, the grand jury found, no declaration of assistance was filed for either of those absentee ballots, nor was the need for assistance documented with the county election bureau, as dictated by state laws governing elections.
“There is no testimony that the electors were influenced by Mr. Wiltrout in their voting selections nor that Mr. Wiltrout attempted to influence them,” the presentment stated. “The testimony of the electors and Mr. Wiltrout at the grand jury proceedings indicated that Mr. Wiltrout’s assistance was done out of friendship and aiding the voters in the electoral process.”
Keefer and Wiltrout are both still sitting supervisors. Geary did not run for re-election last year.