ACORN defendant gets probation


The last individual defendant in the voter registration malfeasance case involving the national grass-roots community organizing group ACORN was sentenced Monday to a year of probation.

District Judge Donald Mosley ordered that Amy Busefink, as part of her probation, must perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $4,000 fine -- $3,000 more than recommended by state prosecutors.

Busefink in November pleaded no contest to two counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters, a gross misdemeanor. She entered an Alford plea, which means she didn't admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors could prove their case against her.

The Nevada attorney general's office is still pursuing a case against ACORN, which dissolved after declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy in November.

Busefink's attorney, Kevin Stolworthy, said his client was relieved that her case has finally reached a conclusion.

"She's sorry that this happened on her watch," Stolworthy said.

In the meantime, Stolworthy said a provision in the plea agreement will allow him to make an appeal to the state Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the statute used to convict Busefink.

"Somebody needs to clean this statute up," Stolworthy said, adding that the Legislature has already tried twice to change the law.

Nevada law states it is "unlawful for a person to provide compensation for registering voters that is based upon the total number of voters a person registers."

The Nevada attorney general's office argued that ACORN and Busefink authorized a Las Vegas field operative to run an illegal voter-registration program during the 2008 election cycle that used cash to encourage workers to sign up voters.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, also had an illegal quota policy that forced workers to register a certain number of people per shift or face termination, according to authorities.

The field operative who created and ran the incentive program, Christopher Edwards, is serving three years of probation after pleading guilty to two gross misdemeanors.

As part of a plea deal, Edwards must testify against ACORN.

Busefink is a longtime employee of Project Vote; worked in partnership with ACORN in 2008; and oversaw Edwards. Project Vote is a national grass-roots organization that registers voters.

ACORN officials maintained Edwards was ordered not to run the incentive program.

The program, called Blackjack or 21-Plus, rewarded employees with $5 extra per shift if they brought in 21 or more completed voter registration cards.

ACORN is charged with 13 counts of compensation for registration of voters. A trial is scheduled for April 25 before Mosley.

If convicted, ACORN as an organization can be fined a maximum of $5,000 per count.

The state would then have to fight in bankruptcy court to claim money from the defunct organization.

The 40-year-old organization, which once counted President Barack Obama, among its ranks, in recent years has come under fire for its voter registration tactics.

Conservatives condemned it as a pro-Democrat group engaging in partisan political activities, which violated the tax-exempt status of some of its affiliates.

Congress slashed the organization's federal funding following a hidden-camera sting by conservative operatives showing ACORN employees giving advice on illegal activities.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

 

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