08TBILISI109, GEORGIA’S LEGAL EAGLES PROSECUTE ELECTION CRIMES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI109 2008-01-23 13:33 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8979
RR RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0109/01 0231333
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231333Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8656
INFO RUEAWJA/DOJ WASHDC
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000109 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR INL/AAE, EUR/ACE, EUR/CAC 
DOJ FOR OPDAT (LEHMANN/NEWCOMBE) 
 
E.O.  12958: N/A 
TAGS: SNAR PGOV PHUM KCRM KJUS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA'S LEGAL EAGLES PROSECUTE ELECTION CRIMES 
 
 
1. Summary: For the first time in its history, Georgia's Office of 
Public Prosecution Service (OPP) charged individuals with committing 
election crimes.  U.S.-trained OPP prosecutors charged that two 
individuals, during the January 5, 2008, election, cast fraudulent 
ballots.  To prepare the OPP for the elections, Department of 
Justice/Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and 
Training (DOJ/OPDAT) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 
election crimes experts trained 50 OPP prosecutors and investigators 
on effective methods for investigating and prosecuting election 
crimes.  For two days, they identified typical election crimes, 
discussed investigative techniques, and explored the importance of 
collecting evidence early in the prosecution.  Armed with this 
information, OPP prosecutors and investigators responded to 
election-day complaints and have, for the first time in Georgia's 
history, charged two individuals with election crimes.  Although 
these cases must proceed through the court system, simply charging 
these individuals is a significant step in the direction of truly 
free and fair elections.   The challenge for the upcoming 
parliamentary elections will be to help address more sophisticated 
election irregularities, such as campaign finance, and to develop 
productive working relationships with the Georgian Young Lawyers 
Association (GYLA) and other domestic organizations that monitor the 
elections and receive citizen complaints. 
 
--------------------------- 
Take It, To the Limit . . . 
--------------------------- 
 
2. In prior elections, the OPP received complaints about criminal 
activity.  These complaints included allegations of ballot box 
stuffing, fraudulently signing the election rolls, and forcibly 
stealing the ballot boxes.  The OPP limited its investigations to 
counting the number of ballots cast to determine if they 
corresponded to the individuals registered to vote.  Additionally, 
they examined the voting rolls to determine if someone forged the 
signatures.  Finally, they unsuccessfully tried to identify the 
individuals involved in the ballot box heists.  Unfortunately, none 
of these investigations ever resulted in any charges against the 
culprits. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
The New Kid in Town - - Learning How to 
Prosecute An Election Crime 
---------------------------------------- 
 
3. The January 5, 2008, election offered a new opportunity for the 
OPP.  A competitive election offered Georgian voters an opportunity 
to freely choose their President, but also afforded criminals an 
opportunity to interfere with the voting process, including casting 
fraudulent ballots.  In view of the latter, the DOJ/OPDAT RLA and 
the FBI Legatt seized upon the opportunity presented by the 
Presidential election to help the OPP increase its capacity to 
prosecute election crimes.  Although Georgia criminalizes bribing 
voters, casting forged ballots, and using false identification, OPP 
prosecutors and investigators had never charged anyone with any of 
those election crimes.  The investigators claimed that they lacked 
the knowledge necessary to investigate such crimes.  For example, 
they understood that people cast fraudulent ballots and forged 
voting rolls, but they were unsure as to the kind of evidence 
necessary to collect or the witnesses to interview in order to prove 
the case in court.  Moreover, the prosecutors naively suggested that 
people would not be able to commit election crimes as a result of 
the Central Election Committee's (CEC) efforts to purge the voter 
rolls of ineligible voters and Georgia's requirement that people 
present photograph identification prior to obtaining a ballot.  In 
short, after meeting with the prosecutors and the investigators, it 
became clear that a practical primer on best practices in 
investigating and prosecuting election crimes would be extremely 
beneficial for Georgian law enforcement.  Such a seminar would focus 
on explaining likely election crime scenarios, identifying the 
evidence that should be collected, and helping the investigators 
develop techniques to prosecute these cases. 
 
4. On December 13-14, 2007, Georgian prosecutors, investigators, and 
U.S. experts examined how to investigate and prosecute a variety of 
election crimes.  First, Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Hal 
Goldsmith described a fraudulent voting scheme from the U.S. in 
which an election official forged voter signatures and fraudulently 
cast ballots.  AUSA Goldsmith explained that an election judge 
waited until the end of the day then forged signatures of people who 
had not voted and gave fraudulent ballots for others to cast.  The 
Georgians agreed that a similar situation could happen in Georgia. 
As such, the discussions moved to what evidence was necessary to 
prosecute a person for such conduct and how to secure the evidence. 
 
 
5. The U.S. experts explained that before interviewing the victims, 
the
 police removed them from the scene.  This was important because 
it allowed the victims to explain the facts while they were fresh in 
 
TBILISI 00000109  002 OF 003 
 
 
their memory but eliminated potential interference from the press or 
the criminal's associates, and prevented the suspect from learning 
that he was under investigation.  Moreover, after the police 
identified the criminal, they returned to the polling place, removed 
him, and interviewed him at the police station.  They also secured 
other evidence, including the pen the suspect used to forge 
signatures, and notified officials that they would collect the 
voting rolls and other items after the election.  This accomplished 
several key goals.  By securing the evidence early in the process, 
law enforcement officials prevented the suspect or his associates 
from destroying material evidence. Criminals committing election 
crimes depend on the election's infrequency and speed to destroy the 
evidence necessary to prosecute.  Consequently, law enforcement 
officials must act quickly to preserve the necessary evidence. 
Moreover, by removing the suspect from the polling station or 
notifying him that he was a suspect, the police prohibited him from 
concocting a story or manipulating the evidence to support the 
story. 
 
6. FBI Special Agent Michael Elliott and the Georgian prosecutors 
and investigators examined how law enforcement officials act rapidly 
to secure evidence, remove the suspect from the polling station, and 
interview the victims and other witnesses.  Special Agent Elliott 
and AUSA Goldsmith both mentioned the importance of cooperation 
among law enforcement agencies.  For example, the creation of an 
election-day task force, composed of several law enforcement 
agencies, to rapidly respond to election crime complaints has proven 
successful in many countries.  The Georgian prosecutors and 
investigators indicated that their law prohibits them from creating 
a task force without a court order until a crime is committed and 
law enforcement initiates an investigation.  However, they also 
indicated that nothing prohibited them from informally initiating 
contacts with necessary task force members.  For example, they 
agreed that the law does not prevent them from alerting local law 
enforcement officials in each region to include them in a task force 
if a crime were to occur in that region.  They also agreed that they 
could identify points of contact at the various ministries to 
include in a task force to investigate an election crime.  In other 
words, while the prosecutors and investigators could not formally 
create a task force, they could create an investigative body that 
could be activated upon the receipt of an election crime complaint. 
 
7. Two additional election crime scenarios were discussed.  First, 
the Georgians analyzed a situation in which political parties bribed 
individuals to vote in their candidate's favor and identified the 
evidence needed to successfully prosecute this crime.  They 
discussed using cooperating undercover witnesses, which are allowed 
under Georgian law, in such cases to obtain incriminating statements 
from those engaged in criminal activity.  Indeed, undercover 
witnesses may be able to document a criminal bragging that he 
"purchased" a certain number of votes.  This is powerful evidence 
for the prosecution during a trial.  They also considered using 
undercover law enforcement officials to document bribery.  The AUSA 
explained how he used law enforcement officers to pose as 
individuals who would cast a fraudulent vote in exchange for money. 
The undercover officers used a hidden microphone to record their 
conversations with those who offered them money for votes while 
other officers videotaped these transactions from a nearby vehicle. 
 
 
8. Finally, the Georgian prosecutors and investigators also 
discussed efforts to fraudulently inflate the voting rolls with 
their U.S. counterparts.  AUSA Goldsmith described a scenario in 
which American volunteers, claiming to register individuals, falsely 
filled out voting applications in order to create fictitious 
individuals for whom others might cast fraudulent votes.  Here, the 
evidence necessary for a successful prosecution would be the 
registration cards that the volunteers submitted, proof that the 
people for whom the registration cards were submitted did not exist, 
and, if possible, statements from the volunteers admitting that they 
falsely submitted these items. 
 
9. The prosecutors and the investigators found the bribery scenario 
plausible.  Historically, some political parties have paid 
individuals to vote for the party's candidate or purchased a voter's 
identification card to be used by another on election-day.  The 
Georgians, though, did not believe that inflating the voter rolls 
would be possible because the CEC had taken steps to prevent this 
action.  Nevertheless, the Georgians agreed that people might have 
lied to the CEC representatives concerning who lived in various 
residences.  Moreover, since individuals might not be in Georgia on 
January 5, 2008, the Georgians agreed that unscrupulous individuals 
might try to cast votes for such absentee citizens.  Ultimately, the 
Georgians conceded that, notwithstanding the CEC's efforts, 
individuals could inflate the voter rolls and fraudulently cast 
ballots. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Desperado, Why Don't You Come to Your Senses 
 
TBILISI 00000109  003 OF 003 
 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
10. Armed with this information, Georgian prosecutors and 
investigators awaited complaints on January 5, 2008.  Based on 
citizen complaints, two individuals, for the first time in the OPP's 
history, will be prosecuted for election crimes - namely, the 
casting of fraudulent ballots.  Specifically, the OPP has charged 
one individual with violating the prohibition against participating 
in an election using another person's identification or a false 
document.  According to the charge, an eyewitness saw the defendant 
drop several forged ballots into a ballot box and tried to detain 
him.  The defendant broke free from the observer, and was 
subsequently arrested.  The police learned the suspect's identity, 
questioned the witnesses and the suspect on January 5, 2008, and 
subsequently charged him.  The OPP has also charged another 
individual with casting more than one ballot in violation of 
Georgia's criminal code.  Again, the police interviewed the 
witnesses and the suspect on January 5, 2008.  The witnesses 
confirmed that they observed the suspect cast a ballot early in the 
morning and cast a second ballot later in the evening.  The OPP did 
not charge either individual until after the election. 
 
11.  These charges are significant for two reasons.  First, they 
represent the first time in Georgia's history that the prosecution 
has charged individuals with election crimes.  Charging individuals 
with election crimes demonstrates that the government takes these 
typ
es of crimes seriously.  It will invest its limited funds and 
resources to prosecute these crimes.  As such, Georgian citizens 
should vote with greater confidence knowing that the GOG will make 
every effort to ensure that these votes will not be diluted by 
individuals casting fraudulent ballots.  Second, the swiftness with 
which the prosecutors and the investigators responded to the 
complaints demonstrates that the two-day seminar was effective.  The 
U.S. experts highlighted the need to secure the evidence necessary 
to prosecute election related crimes quickly given that such 
evidence is routinely destroyed right after the election.  They also 
emphasized the need to quickly identify the culprit and obtain a 
statement from him, if any, in order to prevent him from destroying 
critical evidence or concocting a story that would have some factual 
support.  Here, Georgian prosecutors and the investigators 
demonstrated that they had learned from the experiences their U.S. 
colleagues shared with them.  They responded to the complaint on 
election-day, spoke with the relevant witnesses and secured 
statements from them, and identified the suspects and obtained 
statements from them.  Moreover, the prosecutors exercised restraint 
in that they did not remove the fraudulent ballots from the voting 
box because they could not identify them.  Additionally, they waited 
to charge the defendants until after the election in order to avoid 
claims that they attempted to influence the election's outcome. 
 
12. Finally, and most critically, Georgian law enforcement initiated 
a working partnership with GYLA and other indigenous NGOs that 
received complaints from voters and monitors similar to those that 
resulted in these election crime charges.  Indeed, the work of 
Georgian and international monitors revealed that other types of 
election crimes may have been committed in the run up to the 
election and on election day.  These include illegal campaign 
financing, something that the both the U.S. and European democracies 
have recently had to confront, polling station intimidation, and, 
post-election, fraudulent ballot counting. This also underscores the 
importance of the GOG's continued dedication to enhancing the 
Georgian prosecutors and investigators' knowledge and skill level so 
that they are prepared for the upcoming parliamentary elections. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
The Long Run - - How Charging Election Crimes 
Improves the Rule of Law 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
13. Comment.  The January 5, 2008, Presidential election was the 
first competitive election in Georgia's history. In order for 
Georgians to have faith in current and future elections, they must 
believe that the government will enforce the law and prevent people 
from diluting the value of legitimate votes through criminality. 
The OPP's maiden efforts to prosecute election crimes should 
strengthen the public's faith in not only the knowledge and skills 
of Georgian law enforcement, but also their determination to ensure 
fair elections in Georgia.  Honest citizens now have concrete proof 
that the OPP will not tolerate efforts to wrongfully influence the 
election.  Further, in anticipation of the upcoming parliamentary 
elections, Georgian law enforcement must further develop its 
election crime prosecution sophistication in order to address some 
of the more sophisticated election fraud - - e.g., campaign finance 
and other illegal funding schemes - - that allegedly occurred during 
the January 5th elections. Both DOJ/OPDAT and the FBI stand ready to 
assist the Georgians with this task. 
 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

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