CINCINNATI - A long-time poll worker who admitted to illegal voting was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday and received a rebuke from the judge, who cited her criminal past.
Melowese Richardson, 58, pleaded no contest to four counts of illegal voting in 2009, 2011 and 2012. One count charged her with voting for her sister, who is in a coma. Four other counts were dropped in exchange for Richardson's plea.
During a passionate sentencing speech, Hamilton County Judge Robert P. Ruehlman laid out a laundry list of past charges against Richardson - from witness harassment to theft to assault - as Richardson stood before him.
"I'm Melowese Richardson. I take the law into my own hands. I do what I want," Ruehlman said. "It's about criminal activity. You are a criminal."
Watch Ruehlman's rebuke in the video player above or go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXe3PdFStc4&feature=share&list=UUQaDjAIpg-pd44ats-HXCyA
Ruehlman also took exception to Richardson's claims that she didn't intend to commit voter fraud when she voted twice for President Barack Obama in 2012.
"I think he (Obama) would be appalled by your conduct if asked about it," Ruehlman said.
Richardson admitted to 9 On Your Side in a Feb. 6 interview that she submitted an absentee ballot and voted again in person in 2012.
"I can't understand these charges against me," Richardson said in the Feb. 6 interview. "Have they never heard of a simple mistake? Have they never heard of overlooking? Mailing in a ballot (and) registering to vote at a precinct after you've forgotten that you mailed in a ballot?"
Richardson was one of six people accused of voter fraud in 2012 in Hamilton County.
Sister Marge Kloos and Russell Glassop pleaded guilty and were accepted into a diversion program.
Kloos, a dean at the College of Mount St. Joseph, admitted that she submitted an absentee ballot in the name of her deceased roommate, Sister Rose Marie Hewitt. Kloos lost her position at the Mount.
Glassop admitted that he submitted his wife's absentee ballot after she died.
If Kloos and Glossop complete the diversion program, their records will be expunged.
The three other cases referred to the prosecutor's office were:
- Margaret Allen -- allegedly voted absentee, but is not a Hamilton County resident. She has a court hearing Thursday.
- Ernestine Strickland -- lives in Tennessee, but allegedly voted in Hamilton County while staying for six months with family members in Colerain Township. She has not been arrested and has not turned herself in.
- Andre Wilson -- allegedly registered and voted during Golden Week, listing an address that was not his home. His case is continuing.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said in a March statement announcing Richardson's indictment that "every vote is important and every voter and candidate needs to have faith in our system."
Hamilton County Board of Elections member Alex M. Triantafilou said in a statement Wednesday:
"Judge Ruehlman's sentence is just and appropriate for this serious breach of the public's trust. Ms. Richardson was paid by the taxpayers to administer elections in her polling place fairly and she acted contrary to her oath to uphold the law. In the end, justice was served in this case."
Triantafilou said the Board of Elections continues to review cases of voter fraud. "We will continue to work to identify and urge prosecution of this behavior," he said.
Amy Searcy, director for the Board of Elections, said she believed a positive message came from the conclusion of Richardson's case.
"It is that the integrity of voting in Hamilton County has been maintained," Searcy said.
Richardson had faced up to 12 years in prison if she had been convicted of all eight original charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.