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Second Change-of-Government Defendant Pleads Guilty

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm 1,065 12 Comments

(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Cheryl Simmons, a convicted felon who collected signatures for last year’s change-of-government effort, pleaded guilty to voter fraud in Arlington County Circuit Court this morning.

Simmon’s guilty plea comes one week after another person hired to obtain petition signatures, William Cockerham, pleaded guilty to a similar voter fraud charge.

State law specifies that petition signatures must be witnessed by someone who is at least eligible to register to vote. As convicted felons, neither Simmons nor Cockerham were eligible.

Both Simmons and Cockerham were hired by Signature Masters, a firm that specializes in petition drives. The firm was contracted to collect signatures for last year’s unsuccessful attempt to change Arlington’s form of government, which was sponsored by Arlington’s police and fire unions.

In a statement of fact entered as part of today’s guilty plea, prosecutors said that Simmons told Shawn Wilmoth, the president of Signature Masters, that she had been convicted of a felony. Nonetheless, prosecutors say Wilmoth hired Simmons to collect signatures at a fee of $3 per signature. Later, when news reports revealed that Simmons was felon, Wilmoth told the Washington Post that Simmons had passed a background check.

“It was an issue with the background-check company we are dealing with,” he told the paper.

Prosecutors said most of the 55 petitions pages that Simmons signed as a witness were handed to her by Wilmoth at a local Starbucks. Only a few pages, prosecutors said, contained signatures she had actually collected.

So far, Wilmoth has not been charged with a crime.

Simmons’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 20. She remains free on bond.

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  • Arlwhenever

    Any way to find out what charge she copped to and what sentence/fine, if any, results? Same for the first defendent. Thank you.

    • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

      Sentencing comes later.

      • Arlwhenever

        Thanks. And if anyone out there is paying attention, I would be very happy to moonlight collecting signatures at $3.00 a pop, and they would be legit.

  • Thes

    Technically, Simmons might better be described as a person who claimed in filings with the Registrar to have collected signatures — it appears that other people collected them.

  • James

    What Wilmoth knew and did is certainly of interest. Also what did the notary and the head of the firefighters union know? And when did they know it?

  • Wayne Kubicki

    Assuming the statement of fact from Ms. Simmons is true, since Mr. Wilmoth’s signature isn’t on any documents that we know of, what might he be charged with? Conspiracy to commit voter fraud (is there such a thing)?

    As for Mike Staples (head of the firefighters group) – I’ve known Mike (as well as Ken Dennis from the police organization) for a fairly long time. Personally, I’d be absolutely stunned if either Mike or Ken knew what was apparently going on with Signature Masters & Wilmoth.

    • mehoo

      Voter fraud is voter fraud whether you’re the voter or not.

    • Thes

      Virginia Code section 18.2-18:

      “How principals in second degree and accessories before the fact punished.

      In the case of every felony, every principal in the second degree and every accessory before the fact may be indicted, tried, convicted and punished in all respects as if a principal in the first degree;”

    • Shane

      Why didn’t Ken Dennis use his skills as a trained law enforcement professional to take about 10 minutes and Google the Signature Masters outfit himself? If he had done so, he would have found evidence of shenanigans in other states where they worked.

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  • Something rotten in Denmark

    Dena Kozanas, the campaign manager for this campaign (and the current director of membership for the Fairfax GOP) personally notarized 100 of Simmons’ 127 pages and all 76 pages signed by Cockerham. In notarizing those documents, she was certifying that the documents had been signed by Cockerham and Simmons in her presence–something that both Simmons and Cockerham seem to be saying did not happen. If those allegations are true, she needs to be stripped of her notary license at the least and potentially investigated for criminal behavior herself.

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