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Mass. lawmaker will plead guilty to voter fraud

A Democratic state representative from Everett who served on an election law committee is resigning his seat and will plead guilty to voter fraud charges in federal court in Boston, authorities said Thursday.

Representative Stephen “Stat” Smith, 57, faces up to two years in prison, and prosecutors will recommend a 6-month sentence, according to his plea agreement. Smith has also agreed to vacate his seat, effective Jan. 1, and not seek elective office for five years from the date of his sentencing. A plea date has not been set.

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Smith did not return messages seeking comment Thursday.

One of his lawyers, Peter C. Horstmann, declined to discuss the case, but said in an e-mail, “Please remember, these are misdemeanors.”

According to prosecutors, Smith, first elected to the Legislature in 2006, submitted fraudulent absentee ballots to support his bids for public office in 2009 and 2010.

He has also served on the Everett Board of Alderman and School Committee.

Smith obtained absentee ballots for ineligible voters, who would unlawfully cast them, or he cast himself, prosecutors said. In some cases, he obtained absentee ballots for registered voters who did not know that he was voting in their names.

Prosecutors wrote in a filing that in those cases, “one or more government officials” helped Smith intercept absentee ballots before they reached unknowing voters.

Court records do not identify those officials, or say how many fraudulent ballots were cast. A spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz declined to comment beyond the records.

Globe columnist Kevin Cullen raised questions about Smith in September 2010. Cullen reported at the time that in a recent primary election, six absentee ballots were mailed from Smith’s home, even though he was in Everett that day, and more than a dozen were mailed from a hostel that he owned.

Smith told Cullen he voted by absentee ballot because he thought he might have had trouble getting to the polls.

“I had intended to spend the whole day on my knees in Immaculate Conception Church, praying for victory, but after kneeling for 10 minutes I realized I couldn’t do it,” Smith said.

In a brief statement on Thursday, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, a fellow Democrat, called the charges against Smith disappointing.

“Massachusetts voters have the expectation and right to vote in fair, free and open elections,” DeLeo said.

House Minority Leader Bradley Jones was less restrained.

“Good riddance,” said the North Reading Republican. “He disgraced his city and the institution he served in, and the whole institution of democracy.”

In a statement, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. said:

“While we have no indication that these violations extend beyond those instances involving Representative Smith, the residents of the City of Everett can rest assured that any voter fraud uncovered by this investigation will be dealt with decisively by this administration.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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