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The Herald-Standard - May 21, 1999

Former Congressman Faces Felony Counts
Three charged in voter fraud probe

By Paul Sunyak
Herald-Standard Staff Writer

Former U.S. Rep. Austin J. Murphy and two others were charged Thursday with
felony charges of forgery, criminal conspiracy and tampering with public
records or information in connection with the Fayette County Grand Jury
investigation into voter fraud.

Murphy also faces misdemeanor charges of unsworn falsification to
authorities and tampering with records, and three violations of the election
code, including a charge that he "retrained the freedom of choice of electors
and registered fraudulent votes to prevent a free and fair election."
Facing the same felony and misdemeanor charges are Wharton Township
personal care home operator Peggy Bouras and former Wharton Township tax
collector Shirley Hughes.

Among its findings, the grand jury concluded that Murphy, Bouras and Hughes
wrote in the name of Eileen R. Murphy, Austin Murphy's wife, for inspector of
elections in the May 1997 primary election, on absentee ballots, submitted in
the names of residents of the Bouras Personal Care Home.

The charges were recommended by the grand jury. They were filed with
District Justice Wendy Dennis of Farmington by Chief County Detective Bernard
W. Gorman and state police trooper Robert Hill.

Joining Gorman in Dennis' office when the charges were filed were assistant
county detective Lawrence Curry, District Attorney Peter U. Hook and
Assistant District Attorney Jack R. Hencks Jr.

Hencks said the charges arose from a "presentment" by the grant jury which
he defined as, "a recomendation by the grand jury that the district
attorney's office file charges."

Heneks, who is handling the case before the grand jury, said it has not
completed its work.

"It's still continuing," said Hencks.

There is also the ossibility of more charges to come and more individuals
to be implicated, as each of the criminal complaints filed Thursday listed
participants in the scheme as "Peggy Bouras, Austin J Murphy and Shirley
Hughes, and others."

The grand jury was seated March 31 and has up to 18 months to complete its
work. Hook requested its formation after his investigation into alleged
voter fraud centered on the Bouras Personal Care Home Inc has reached a
stonewall.

The matter had been passed to Hook in April 1998 after the county Election
Board, comprised of Commissioners Sean M Cavanagh, Vincent A Vicities and
Harry E Albert III, voided the voter registration cards of two elderly
residents of the Bouras home, Mabel Boger and Nellie Mondalek, following a
handwriting expert's analysis.

The two people who filed those challenges -- Sondra Cesarino of Wharton
Township and Mary Jane Boger of North Union Township -- later challenged the
voter registsrations of an additional 35 Bouras home residents.
Following a private investigation sanctioned by Cavanagh and Vicitas but
opposed by Albert, an additional 37 voter registrations from the Bouras home
were voided.

Those were also turned over to Hook for criminal investigation and
prosecution, following the procedure by state law.

Cavangh, who called for an DBI investigation into the mater as early as
June 1997, has maintained all along there was "massive" forgery and fraud at
the Bouras home in the May 19976 primary election.

In that election, Cesarino put the Bouras home on the news radar screen by
challenging nine absentee ballots cast in the Wharton 1 voting precinct,
eight of which came from residents of the Bouras home.

Following an election board hearing, Albert and Vicites voted to count
those eight votes, on grounds Casarino had not produced enough evidence to
show the affected voters should not have been allowed to cast absentee
ballots.

Cavanagh broke with his colleages and abstained from that vote, saying he
felt additional election board investigation was needed given suspicions that
were readily evident to him.

Chief among those suspicions, said Cavanagh, was the fact that none of the
challenged absentee voters appeared at the election board hearing, but in
their place appeared Bouras, Hughes and Dr Phillip E Reilly, who serves as
the Bouras home's medical director.

During that hearing, Reilly defended the voting practices at the Bouras
home, saying a screening procedure "de-selected" those who were incapable of
casting informed votes.

The grand jury presentment addressed that issue as well, noting "While some
witnesses before the grand jury indicated that voting was a last vestige of
the resident's dignity and well-being, and that voting was both healthy and
good therapy, all in the best interest of the resident, the grand jury finds
that the lack of voting in a president (year) election indicates more
appropriately that the actions involved by the process were motivated less by
an interest in the patients than a personal interest of outsiders to the home
in the political outcomes of local races."

Copyright 1999 The Herald-Standard.

Reprinted without permission.
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Revised: May 22, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Voting Integrity Project. All rights reserved.
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