A former sheriff’s office supervisor was charged after an investigation into whether multiple police department employees had committed voter fraud.
Bryan E. Wolfe, 35, who resigned this month as the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office director of communications, was charged with voting outside his precinct of residence, a Class D felony.
Wolfe was the only person charged by special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp, who was asked to look into the claims of voter fraud after a letter was sent to multiple local officials. Wolfe had moved to Marion County but still voted in Johnson County in 2010 after he had moved, according to charging documents.
Wolfe told investigators he didn’t know he had done anything wrong and was voting where he had voted in the past.
The letter sent to officials claimed Wolfe, Franklin Police Department Detective Scott Carter, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Werden, former investigations technician Melissa Carter and Deputy Dave Emery all voted using addresses where they do not live. The letter, written by Ethan Allen Bailey, claimed the officials committed voter fraud, a Class D felony, by voting where they were not registered.
After Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper received the letter this year, he asked for a special prosecutor to look into the claims.
Leerkamp said the other people named in the letter were not charged because they lived in or near the precinct where they voted. Some had been told by election workers to return to their former precinct after trying to go to a different voting site based on where they lived, and they voted in races that would represent where they live, Leerkamp said.
“It may have been a technical violation of the law, but on a practical level, no one cast a vote for a candidate they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to vote for if they weren’t in that precinct,” Leerkamp said.
Wolfe lived in Marion County but voted in Johnson County races. That is a more clear line, Leerkamp said.
In an interview with an investigator, Wolfe said he had always voted at the county courthouse and felt he could continue to vote there after he moved. He was adamant he did not know or feel that what he was doing was wrong, according to the charging documents.
Under the law, a person must knowingly and intentionally violate the voting laws to be charged.
Leerkamp said that would be an issue for Wolfe’s attorney to argue as a defense.
“How can anyone really believe that voting in a county that they don’t live in is not a violation of the law?” Leerkamp said.
Wolfe and his attorney, Jennifer Lukemeyer, were not available Wednesday.
Wolfe worked as the director of communications for the sheriff’s office, overseeing emergency dispatchers. He was hired by Sheriff Doug Cox when he took office in 2011.
Cox said Wolfe resigned Nov. 9. He declined to comment about why Wolfe resigned. Wolfe was a civilian employee and was not under the sheriff’s office merit board.
Leerkamp will continue as special prosecutor as the case goes through the court system.
Wolfe could face up to three years in prison or the charge could be lowered to a misdemeanor, Leerkamp said. The judge, Johnson Superior Court 3 Judge Lance Hamner, would decide if he had any conflicts with the case, she said.
Leerkamp was named as a special prosecutor in the case after Cooper said he saw a potential conflict of interest, since he has worked and continues to work with the voters who were named. The letter also claimed the issue had been brought to the sheriff’s office and prosecutor’s office before and was not looked into because those officials are Republicans.
The claims came from the letter written by Bailey and two other letters that were unsigned, according to charging documents.
Leerkamp said whom the letters came from was not a concern to her while investigating the claims. She asked for help in the case from a state police investigator.
“As a special prosecutor, I was charged with looking objectively at the allegations, not necessarily the source of the allegations, to see if they had any merit,” Leerkamp said.
Since the investigation started, all the people named have updated their voter registrations to show their current addresses and can vote in future elections, she said.
Wolfe, 6620 Madison Ave., was arrested and released from the Johnson County jail on his own recognizance.