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UPDATE: Guilty verdicts in petition fraud trial

April 25, 2013|By Rachel Lake, WSBT-TV Reporter

Guilty on all counts -- A jury convicted Butch Morgan and Dustin Blythe of forging signatures to get Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on Indiana's 2008 primary Ballot. Morgan headed up the St. Joseph County Democratic Party and Blythe worked in the registration office. It took the jury just 3 and a half hours to reach a verdict.

And in the end, the prosecution came out the winner.

"It's been a long ordeal for a lot of us, and it is a relief," said Special Prosecutor Stan Levco.

A jury found Morgan and Blythe guilty of faking petitions from the 2008 Indiana primary.

"Sometimes these things are relatively not that big of a deal, but to me when you talk about an election there's nothing more sacred than the right to vote," said Levco. "And anytime you start messing with that, you're doing something pretty serious."

The jury agreed, convicting Blythe of forgery and petition fraud. They also convicted Morgan of conspiracy to commit petition fraud and conspiracy to commit forgery.

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Both men refused to speak on camera after the verdict came down.

"I think this helped uphold the integrity of the electoral system," said Levco.

In a written response, St. Joseph County Republican Party Chairwoman Dr. Deb Fleming said "A fair trial has been held and a just verdict delivered, we hope that this is the beginning of the end of the culture of corruption that has plagued our county for far too long."

The Republican Party’s executive director, Jake Teshka, said "At the heart of this issue is arrogance. It is exactly that kind of arrogance that disheartens young people like me and makes us lose faith in the process. As kids on the ball field, we learned that society only works if everyone plays by the rules. That is all we are asking for."

Blythe and Morgan are scheduled to be sentenced June 17 at 1:30. Two other former workers in the St. Joseph County's voter registration office: Pam Brunette and Bev Shelton will also appear in court that day. Brunette and Shelton avoided trial by pleading guilty to forgery and petition fraud.

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