Longform

End of a Smear

Page 6 of 8

Though he himself lived in Yuma, Sheriff Ibarra had a small house in Eloy and a smaller trailer. His parents also lived there. From these three modest addresses, Ibarra claimed legal residence for enough voters to suggest he was packing them into an Eloy version of Das Boot.

The Eloy council candidates Ibarra voted for dole out patronage. For example, Moses' brother Joel had been appointed city magistrate by an earlier council, a position that only paid $20,000 but which was, nonetheless, better than Joel's other job, picking lettuce.

The Snuffy Smith-like loyalty of the Ibarra clan produced testimony that was hillbilly hilarious.

Guadalupe Ibarra, who was also a sheriff, did not live in Eloy when his absentee ballot for the city council election was filed.

When questioned, his answers were, at best, unusual. He brought two of his running trophies to his interview to demonstrate his reliability, but his statements on voter fraud were contradicted by his own wife.

Guadalupe insisted that his sister-in-law lived with them, but he could not remember if she'd lived with them for two weeks or two years. During a break, Lieutenant Pritchett called Guadalupe's wife, who admitted that the woman in question had never lived with them.

Confronted with a tape recording of his wife's statements, Guadalupe said she was lying. She would later change her testimony to agree with Guadalupe's.

Guadalupe took a polygraph test. It suggested that Guadalupe believed that he could vote in Eloy even though he lived elsewhere.

His ignorance was his defense.
Rather than prosecute the lame, Carey dropped the charges against Guadalupe Ibarra.

Under the methodical hand of Lieutenant Pritchett, the door slammed shut on the remaining Ibarras.

One of the minor characters, Oscar Morin, lived in Yuma, had a business in Yuma, loans, bank accounts and baby-sitter records, all based in Yuma. But his name was on an Eloy absentee ballot.

His wife, Moses Ibarra's sister-in-law, also lived with Oscar in Yuma.
She voted twice in Eloy--once under her married name and once under her maiden name--in the same election.

And although her husband Oscar earned $40,000 a year as an electrician, she told the welfare office that she was a single mother living in Eloy. She soaked the state for $600 a month in benefits, according to her plea agreement. Authorities noted in her presentence report on voter fraud that she and Oscar owned a new $30,000 truck, a big-screen television and a Soloflex exerciser.

During the investigation, Lieutenant Pritchett interviewed Morin at his place of work in Yuma about the fraudulent absentee ballot with his name on it.

The following excerpts are from the interview Pritchett and another officer conducted.

"Oscar was not certain if the signature was his or not ... I referred again to the Absentee Registration and asked Oscar if he remembered signing the document. He replied, 'Not back in November.' ... I asked him again if he signed the document. He replied that it looked like his signature, but he could not remember signing it or registering to vote. ... I asked Oscar if he signed them. He replied, 'I don't remember signing none of those.'"

The police officer explained the process of absentee ballots to Morin, and Lieutenant Pritchett noted in his report, "Oscar replied, 'If I did, I must have been really drunk!'"

At the end of the interview, Lieutenant Pritchett laid it on the line.
"I told Oscar that I thought he had been somewhat evasive during the course of the interview. I told him that he either signed the forms, or he did not. I showed him all of the forms one more time and asked him if he did or did not sign them.

"He replied, 'I couldn't have signed those. I don't know who would. If I wasn't around, how would I know who signed them?'"

After hearing so many charming versions of the truth from Oscar Morin, it was a wonder that Lieutenant Pritchett could even guess what to tell the grand jury. But when he did testify, the cop made a mistake.

In front of the grand jury, Lieutenant Pritchett said Morin admitted signing the absentee ballot.

That was the "perjury."
Lieutenant Pritchett acknowledged his error.
"I misspoke," said Lieutenant Pritchett in an interview conducted before Romley's press conference. "It was a mistake."

In fact, the actions of Carey and Lieutenant Pritchett underscore their assertion that the grand jury testimony was an accident, one slip in a case that took two years to prosecute and filled 36 boxes of files.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey