Richmond Circuit Court Judge Gregory Rupe ruled Wednesday that Shaun Brown’s name must be removed from the ballot in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, following allegations that Brown (pictured above) landed on the ballot as an independent candidate due to forged signatures collected by the Republican campaign in the race.
The aim of the alleged forgery scheme appeared to be splitting the Democratic vote between Brown, the Democrats’ 2016 congressional nominee, and Elaine Luria, the Democrats’ 2018 nominee. Separately, Brown is currently awaiting a retrial over charges that she defrauded the government while running a program to feed the hungry.
The ruling Wednesday came in response to a Democratic Party of Virginia lawsuit last month seeking to throw Brown off the ballot.
“Today, Judge Gregory Rupe in Richmond Circuit Court found ‘forgery…perjury and out and out fraud,” the Democratic Party of Virginia’s communications director, Jake Rubenstein, said in a statement. “Today’s decision is win for the integrity of our elections.”
“I’m buying almost all of what you are selling,” Rupe told the Democratic Party’s lawyers at the hearing, per the Washington Post.
Brown, arguing to keep her name on the ballot, said after the hearing Wednesday that she would appeal the ruling, WAVY reported.
Her lawyer, James Ellenson, acknowledged to TPM that “there was in fact fraud, forged signatures” on a number of petition sheets collected by Scott Taylor’s staffers.
“It’s obvious that they were forged,” he said over the a phone in interview. “A layman could look at it. It was fairly obvious.”
All of Taylor’s staffers who collected signatures for Brown, including three staffers accused of forging multiple signatures each, were subpoenaed by the Democrats to appear in court Wednesday.
None of them took the witness stand, indicating in affidavits that they would plead the Fifth Amendment, which Ellenson told TPM hurt Brown’s case. The three staffers accused of forgery together collected nearly 400 signatures for Brown, the Democratic Party said in a filing, including dozens of alleged forgeries.
“The argument was, and the judge bought it, that none of the signatures from Scott Taylor’s [staffers] should be counted,” Ellenson said.
WAVY’s Andy Fox snapped a picture of Heather Guillot, the Taylor staffer accused of forging the most signatures so far, as she entered the courtroom with her lawyer Wednesday:
— Andy Fox (@AndyFoxWAVY) September 5, 2018
Without signatures from Taylor’s staffers, Ellenson acknowledged to TPM, Brown didn’t have the 1,000 signatures necessary to earn ballot access.
Asked about an appeal, Ellenson said: “We’ll give it a shot.”
A separate special prosecutor investigation is looking into potential criminal violations.
Lindsey Terry, a local Democratic Party volunteer in Virginia Beach, recently revealed to TPM that Taylor called her personally after she made the first allegation of signature forgery against his campaign. Over the phone, Taylor pressured Terry to rescind the forgery accusation, Terry recalled.