Judge drops felony charges against ex-elections official in Virginia

Dec 4, 2023, 11:30 AM

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — A Virginia judge has dismissed felony charges against a former county elections official accused of misconduct in the 2020 election, a decision made after state prosecutors said a key witness changed his story.

At the prosecutors’ request, the judge on Friday dismissed a felony charge of corrupt conduct and one for making a false statement, both of which had been levied against former Prince William County Registrar Michele White. She still faces trial next month on a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty.

Very little has been publicly revealed about exactly what prosecutors believe White did wrong. Court records merely indicate that the case revolves around 2020 election returns, including the presidential race.

Prince William election officials have previously said that White’s successor reported “discrepancies” in results to state officials, but that those discrepancies would not have affected the outcome of any race.

The case was brought by Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares last year. Shortly after his office obtained the indictment against White, it launched an election integrity unit. The move prompted critics to accuse Miyares of pandering to supporters of former President Donald Trump, who falsely blamed his defeat on election fraud.

In White’s case, Assistant Attorney General James Herring filed a motion ahead of Friday’s hearing in which he alleged that an elections worker “conveniently and quite surprisingly provided a different version of events” than the witness had previously recounted.

“As a consequence, the Commonwealth is confronted with significant inconsistent statements,” Herring wrote.

White’s lawyer, Zachary Stafford, said he interviewed the same witness and found nothing inconsistent in his statements. The election worker, “rather filled in a hole that the initial investigation did not address” about who asked him to make changes in the state voter registration system, Stafford said in a statement. The system is being replaced after an audit questioned its reliability and functionality.

Stafford said the witness has reported that White didn’t ask him to make the changes now under scrutiny and that it was “a poor choice of words” for prosecutors to refer to the witness’ updated testimony as “convenient.”

Attorney General Miyares’ office declined to comment beyond the court filing, citing the ongoing misdemeanor case.

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Judge drops felony charges against ex-elections official in Virginia