By LESLIE COLLINS
July 3, 2013
A Missouri state representative’s aunt and uncle pleaded guilty June 28 in Jackson County court to voter fraud in the Aug. 3, 2010, District 40 primary election in Kansas City.
According to court documents, John C. Moretina, 60, and Clara M. Moretina, 61, knowingly provided false information in order to register and vote in the District 40 primary election, where their nephew, JJ Rizzo, was running for office in the Missouri House against candidate Will Royster. Following a recount, Rizzo won the election by one vote.
The Moretinas pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of committing Class Three Election Offenses and are banned from voting again in Missouri. In addition, each must pay a $250 fine. In May, John Moretina pleaded guilty in U.S. District court to voter fraud in the Aug. 3, 2010, primary. Clara Moretina was not charged in that case.
“I’ve had no involvement,” Missouri Rep. Rizzo told Northeast News. “I think they thought it was something they could (legally) do, obviously it wasn’t. When the Jackson County prosecutor looked at this, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office looked at it, it wasn’t this big conspiracy; it was two 60-year-old people who made a mistake.”
According to court documents, Clara Moretina told a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent that she and her husband temporarily moved in with her daughter, who lived in the 500 block of Holmes in Historic Northeast, to allow the daughter to help care for John Moretina. Clara Moretina said they did not have proof of their stay at the Northeast residence and that they continued to pay utilities at their permanent residence in Gladstone, Mo. Both Clara and John Moretina changed their voter registration address to the Northeast residence via mail-in registration in July of 2010 and voted in the 2010 primary election.
“This case sends a clear warning to anyone that would consider trying to hurt the integrity of our elections: We have zero tolerance for voter fraud in Missouri,” Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander said in a statement.
Royster, who believes the voter fraud wasn’t limited to Rizzo’s aunt and uncle, said Rizzo should resign or be removed from office.
“It is no coincidence that the two people closest to John Rizzo are the first to be prosecuted,” Royster told Northeast News. “Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker is sending a clear message to all the elected office holders and to certain employees at the Kansas City Election Board who (allegedly) collaborated in John Rizzo’s election fraud – that election crime will no longer be tolerated.”
“Justice was done,” Peters-Baker said in a statement.
Rizzo, who was re-elected unopposed in 2012, said he’s ready to put the 2010 election behind him.
“Hopefully, everybody can move on from the 2010 election from three years ago since I’ve been re-elected,” Rizzo said.