17 April 2012
Feda Morton, a Fluvanna County teacher who ran for the Republican nomination for the 5th District congressional seat in 2010, has been charged with election fraud for an incident that allegedly occured last year, according to the Virginia State Police.
Morton, 59, of Scottsville, was arrested on the charge on March 22, according to Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the State Police.
Fluvanna County District Court records show that the charge, a felony, was for making a false statement on an election form. The offense took place on Aug. 11 of last year, according to court documents.
At that time, local candidates in Fluvanna County were garnering support for elections set for November.
Morton was released on her own recognizance.
A preliminary hearing has been set for May 15, according to court records.
Morton and her lawyer did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story. Geller also would not elaborate on the case.
The investigation began in January at the request of special prosecutor Ronald Morris, the Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney. Morris asked the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office to look into an allegation of election fraud in Fluvanna County. At the conclusion of the investigation, Special Agent S.V. Fielding placed Morton under arrest, according to Geller. Morris also did not respond to requests for more information.
Morris was assigned to the case after Fluvanna County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip asked for a special prosecutor.
Haislip made the request “for many reasons,” he said in an email to the Fluvanna Review. “Among them are the fact that this situation involved the election of a constitutional officer who is a friend and an allegation against the former chairperson of the Republican party who is also a friend. I am also close friends with Feda’s husband. I did not see how I could make a decision on whether to prosecute the allegation without my relationships to some or all of these people being questioned by the public. While I would never allow a decision on whether to prosecute an alleged offense to be influenced by my relationship to the parties involved, it is important that the public see that even the appearance of impropriety is taken seriously and avoided.”
The charge of election fraud is a Class 5 felony. Upon conviction for a Class 5 felony, the jury or court may choose imprisonment for one to 10 years or jail for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.
The Virginia Code defines election fraud as “Any willfully false material statement or entry made by any person in any statement, form, or report required by this title shall constitute the crime of election fraud and be punishable as a Class 5 felony. Any preprinted statement, form, or report shall include a statement of such unlawful conduct and the penalty provided in this section.”
Morton has been actively involved as a leader in Republican politics in Fluvanna County. She has served as chairman of the Fluvanna Republican Committee and is a past 5th District representative on the Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee.
She and other Republican contenders lost out to Chatham lawyer Robert Hurt as the Republican nominee for the 5th District race held in 2010. Hurt went on to win the seat from CongressmanTom Perriello, a Democrat from Ivy.
Photo courtesy Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail.