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Former JMU student sentenced to 100 days in voter fraud case

Andrew Spieles walks from the United States Magistrate Court for the Western District of...
Andrew Spieles walks from the United States Magistrate Court for the Western District of Virginia on June 20, 2017.(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 20, 2017 at 5:43 PM EDT
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UPDATE (2:25 p.m. Aug. 8):

Andrew Spieles, a 21-year-old former JMU student convicted of knowingly transferring false voter registration forms during the 2016 election season, will serve 100 days in jail.

Spieles, who pleaded guilty in June to fabricating and submitting 18 voter registration forms, told attorneys that he was worried about meeting a registration quota set for him by HarrisonburgVOTES, so he combined voter information from records with fake social security numbers and and made-up birthdays to put in more applications.

He said he didn't care about party affiliation and was told not to worry about party registration, but he worked with a member of the Democratic Party of Virginia. He combined his registration totals with that colleague, so that both would get higher numbers.

HarrisonburgVOTES, however, does not make salary dependent on number of voters registered.

Spieles' colleague did, however, have number goals she had to meet for the Democratic Party, so he said he filled out invalid forms to help her out for the Democratic Party of Virginia's database for calls.

Spieles stated he didn't intend for those forms to ever be turned in to the registrar.

But when he came in later than usual on the day he would normally take the forms to the registrar's office, they had already been filed. The forms were passed on to the Voter Registrar's Office along with other genuine ones. And one of the names on the fabricated forms caught the attention of the General Registrar for Harrisonburg, because it was that of a deceased Rockingham County judge.

Spieles, whose grandfather had died earlier that year, said he had no idea that three of the names he used on those forms were for people who had died. Choking back tears, he said he would have felt "hurt and angry" if his family had received a letter about registering to vote addressed to his grandfather, and he wanted to apologize to the families.

He also apologized to the court and said he wanted to find a way to transform this situation into a way he can help people.

Spieles signed a plea agreement in May, and his attorneys recommended a sentence between 100 and 120 days in jail as part of that bargain.

While Judge Hoppe on Tuesday rejected that plea bargain, his sentencing still came within those guidelines. At one point, Hoppe asked if 45 to 60 days would suffice, but attorneys from both sides recommended 100 days.

The court waived any fees associated with the charges due to an inability to pay the fine, and Spieles will not have to serve any probation following his jail-time.

Throughout the trial process, Spieles said he received death threats via phone and social media, from the right and the left.

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UPDATE (Aug. 8):

Andrew Spieles, the former James Madison University student convicted of knowingly transferring false voter registration forms, faces sentencing in federal court at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

On June 20, he appeared before Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe in Harrisonburg and pleaded guilty to fabricating 18 voter registration forms in the summer of 2016, while he was working for HarrisonburgVOTES.

According to what Spieles told attorneys, he made the forms because he was worried about meeting the registration quota set for him after he had done well getting people to register at the start of the year.

In his plea bargain, the recommended sentence was 100 to 120 days in jail.

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ORIGINAL STORY (June 20):

The former JMU student accused of voter fraud in Harrisonburg was in court on Tuesday.

21-year-old Andrew Spieles appeared before Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe to plead guilty.

According to

, Spieles fabricated 18 voter registration forms in the summer of 2016, while working for HarrisonburgVOTES.

In the months leading up to the 2016 election, the FBI and Harrisonburg Police began

."

This came after the General Registrar for Harrisonburg noticed an irregularity in voter forms. An assistant recognized the name of a deceased father of a Rockingham County Judge, Richard Claybrook Senior. The family confirmed he was dead and that no one else with that name lived at the address.

Another assistant also recognized an irregularity with the name of a registrant. The witness called family members. They said the middle name, birth date, and social security number were wrong.

The next day, Spieles admitted to a witness he was the one to submit the forms, and the day after, was no longer employed with HarrisonburgVOTES.

According to a

released by the United States Magistrate Court for the Western District of Virginia, Spieles "stated that he fabricated registration forms by using the name and address from the walk sheets, creating a birth year by calculating backwards from the age listed on the walk sheet, randomly picking a month and day for the birthday, and created fictitious social security numbers" in August.

He reportedly told attorneys he made the forms because he worried about meeting the registration quota set for him after he had done well getting people to register at the start of the year.

Spieles signed

on May 22.

In court on June 20, 2017, Spieles pleaded guilty.

Even though both lawyer teams asked to get through sentencing on the same day, the judge decided to wait on sentencing.

There will be a pre-sentencing report attorneys will have to file.

The next hearing is 45 days from the guilty plea on August 8.

The recommendation from the plea bargain is 100 to 120 days in jail.