Dave Olson, Published September 07 2012
Defendants: Phone books, imagination source of bogus petition signaturesFARGO – Papers filed in Cass County District Court describe how some election petition workers went from doing a legitimate job of collecting signatures for two initiated measures to padding their petitions with forged names.
The motives given ranged from a desire to keep their jobs and earn bonus pay to a sense that it was something others were doing.
Fifteen people, most of them in their 20s, have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
All are accused of signing a name other than their own to an election petition.
Following is a list of the individuals charged and information contained in court documents about their individual cases:
- Lucas Albers, address and precise age not available.
Albers admitted to an investigator that while collecting signatures for the Clean Water, Lands and Outdoor Heritage Fund initiative, he forged names on some petitions.
He estimated 25 percent of the signatures he turned in were forged, getting some of the names out of phone books and making up others.
- Aireal Boyd, 22, Fargo.
Boyd told investigators that while working as a petition circulator for an initiated measure seeking to legalize marijuana for medical use he forged names on petitions and had friends forge additional names.
Boyd said he felt pressure to reach his quota of signatures and did not know how many signatures he forged, just that he turned in more legitimate signatures than forged signatures.
- William John Brown, 24, Fargo.
Brown admitted to an investigator that about 20 percent of the signatures he gathered for the conservation fund initiative were forged and not the signatures of qualified voters.
- Don Eugene Carter, 20, Fargo.
Carter told an investigator that while working on the conservation fund petition drive he forged about 10 to 15 percent of the signatures he turned in.
He said he made up the names.
- Joshua Colville, Fargo, precise age not available.
Colville told an investigator that he heard about a job opportunity as a petition circulator for the conservation fund measure from teammates on the North Dakota State University Bison football team.
He said most of the signatures he collected were legitimate, but admitted some names came from a phone book, or were the names of people he knew.
When asked about a woman named Katherine Ranft, the notary public listed on the petitions he turned in, Colville said he did not know who she was.
- Joshua Rashaud Gatlin, Fargo, precise age not available.
Gatlin told an investigator that every signature he turned in for the medical marijuana initiative was forged.
He said he and his friends passed around a phone book and signed names from the book to fill up their petitions.
- Demitrius Gray, 18, Fargo.
Gray told an investigator that during the last few weeks he circulated petitions for the conservation fund he began forging names in order to get the number of signatures his supervisor, Josh Weatherspoon, wanted.
Gray said he used a phone book to come up with the names.
- Jennifer Marlene Krahn, Fargo, precise age not available.
Krahn told an investigator that she obtained most of her signatures from qualified voters, but admitted she wrote down a few names of people who did not sign the petitions themselves.
Krahn said she felt pressured to meet expectations and estimated 30 to 50 signatures on the petitions she handed in were invalid.
Krahn said she was given petitions to circulate immediately after interviewing for the job and she did not receive any training regarding the rules of circulating petitions.
Krahn was part of the petition drive behind the conservation fund measure.
- Darren McNorton Jr., 23, Fargo.
McNorton told an investigator that about 25 percent of the signatures he gathered for the conservation fund initiative were names he forged and not the signatures of qualified voters.
- Samuel Olantunjio Ojuri, 21, Fargo.
Ojuri told an investigator that after an interview and a 20-minute orientation with Katherine Ranft he was put to work circulating petitions for the conservation fund initiative.
He said he was paid by the hour and not by the signature. He added it was his understanding that anyone not “up to par” on their signature count would be fired.
Ojuri told the investigator he forged 30 to 40 percent of the signatures he turned in.
- Brendin Pierre, 21, Fargo.
Half of the signatures Pierre turned in as part of the petition drive for the medical marijuana measure were legitimate, according to a statement Pierre made to an investigator.
He said he forged signatures to get the quota of signatures he needed, using a phone book to come with the names.
- Antonio Rogers, 21, Fargo.
Rogers told an investigator that after taking a job circulating petitions for the medical marijuana measure, he found it difficult to find people willing to support the cause.
He admitted that he forged some signatures, telling the investigator he had no idea how many of the signatures on his petitions were forged and how many were legitimate.
- Charles Smith III, 19, Fargo.
Smith told an investigator that 65 to 70 percent of the signatures he turned in for the conservation fund initiative were forged. He stated he and friends who were also circulating petitions made up names and used phone books to come up with addresses.
- Bryan Shepherd, 21, Fargo.
Shepherd told an investigator he circulated petitions for the medical marijuana imitative and reported to the campaign’s director, Dave Schwartz.
Shepherd told the investigator there did not appear to be any structure to the process for obtaining signatures and he said most of the signatures he turned over to Schwartz were forged.
Shepherd said he forged names in order to get the quota of signatures he needed.
- Marcus Williams, 21, Fargo.
Williams told an investigator he forged signatures on some of the petitions he circulated for the medical marijuana measure.
He said Schwartz, whom he reported to, did not give him any direction on what to do, other than to tell him to go to any bank to get the petitions notarized.
Williams said more than half of the signatures he turned in were forged.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555
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