Thursday, December 01, 2005
Judge: Tobin faces trial on charge of denying voting rights November 30, 2005
CONCORD, N.H. --A federal judge has ordered a former high-ranking Republican official to stand trial on a charge of conspiring to injure the voting rights of New Hampshire citizens.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe denied James Tobin's request to dismiss the charge Wednesday. Tobin also faces three other counts of taking part in a Republican plot to jam get-out-the-vote phone lines sponsored by the Democratic Party and the nonpartisan Manchester firefighters union on Election Day 2002. Both groups offered voters rides to the polls.
At the time, Tobin headed the national committee working to get Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate. Last year, he was the New England director of President Bush's re-election campaign, but he resigned a month before the election when the phone jamming accusations surfaced.
Three weeks ago, McAuliffe refused to dismiss the other three counts, but said he would consider the voting rights charge separately. Tobin's trial is scheduled to begin next week.
Tobin maintains he is innocent. Two other Republican officials have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Tobin argued the voting rights charge should be dismissed because voters do not have a right to a "free ride to the polls," so he could not be expected to know his actions would violate a law designed to protect their constitutional right to vote.
McAuliffe disagreed, saying Tobin should have known that any scheme to prevent voters from freely exercising their right to vote would be illegal.
"Defendant allegedly sought to disrupt the telephone lines to impede or prevent voters who needed transportation from getting to the polls, by making it difficult or impossible for them to obtain transportation from the party or firefighters (the overarching goal being to prevent voters from casting votes for Democratic candidates in the federal election)," he wrote.
Former New Hampshire Republican chairman Chuck McGee and consultant Allen Raymond have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Both were fined and sentenced to several months in prison.
Tobin is accused of putting McGee in touch with Raymond, then president of Alexandria, Va.-based GOP Marketplace LLC, to set up the phone jamming operation.
Tobin, McGee, Raymond and another former GOP official face a related civil suit in Hillsborough County Superior Court filed by Democrats wanting more information about the phone jamming plan.
Hundreds of computer-generated hang-up calls paralyzed the phone lines for more than an hour on Nov. 5, 2002, the day of a closely watched Senate race between Republican John Sununu and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu defeated Shaheen 51 percent to 46 percent.