Crime & Courts

Wichita man pleads guilty in Kansas voter fraud case

Ron Weems sits outside of a courtroom after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts relating to double voting in the 2012 and 2014 general elections. (May 4, 2016)
Ron Weems sits outside of a courtroom after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts relating to double voting in the 2012 and 2014 general elections. (May 4, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Wednesday secured his fourth voter fraud conviction in a case against a Wichita man accused of double voting in Kansas and Colorado at least twice – and Kobach said he plans to file more cases soon.

“Stay tuned. We expect that we will be filing some additional cases in the very near future,” Kobach said in an interview after Ron Weems pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts in Sedgwick County District Court and agreed to pay $5,500 in fines.

Weems, 77, is the latest Kansan to be convicted of election crimes since the Legislature granted Kobach’s office prosecutorial authority over such allegations last July.

Weems was registered to vote in Wichita and Teller County, Colo., and did so in both states in the 2012 and 2014 general elections, leading to his criminal charges.

Cases of three other Kansans accused of double voting have reached similar conclusions – with misdemeanor convictions agreed to in plea deals and fines ranging from $500 to $5,500.

As of Wednesday, a fifth case, filed in Sherman County against Lincoln Wilson, was headed to trial, Kobach said. Charges against a sixth Kansan were dropped last month.

“Double voting is likely to remain the … most frequent form of voter fraud that we prosecute going forward because it occurs with regularity and because it’s one of the kinds of fraud we can’t prevent with proof of citizenship and photo ID,” Kobach said.

The fines are “exactly what I wanted to see in cases like this when I made the case before Kansas Legislature that this authority was needed,” he said.

“A $5,000 fine is very significant, and hopefully something no one would want to have to pay.”

Weems on Wednesday morning pleaded guilty to two counts of voting without being qualified and one count of knowingly marking or transmitting more than one advance ballot. In return, Kobach’s office dismissed the two most serious charges against him – both election perjury, which are felonies – involving accusations that he unlawfully signed a Kansas poll book affidavit in the November 2012 and 2014 general elections.

Wichita attorney Jim McIntyre, after Weems’ plea hearing, called his client’s double voting “inadvertent.” He said Weems opted to end the case with a plea rather than continue with what might have been a lengthy prosecution, in part, because of his age.

Weems won’t face jail time or probation, McIntyre said, but agreed to pay a total fine of $5,500 – $2,500 each for two of the counts and $500 for the third. And he can seek expungement of the convictions after three years, he said.

Weems’ voting registration address in Kansas and the mailing address on his Colorado registration match up to a small industrial building near the Intrust Bank Arena. He registered to vote in Sedgwick County in 1980 and in Colorado in 2003, records show.

His guilty plea came prior to his scheduled preliminary hearing in case.

Kobach, in an e-mailed statement after Weems’ plea, said the voter fraud prosecutions “demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that Kansas has the most secure elections in the country.”

The three other Kansans convicted under his prosecutorial authority are:

▪ Steven K. Gaedtke, 60, who in December agreed to pay a $500 fine after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count alleging he voted in both Johnson County and in Arkansas in 2010; charges against his wife, Betty, were dropped because the signature on her absentee ballot and her actual signature didn’t match.

▪ Randall Kilian, 62, who last month agreed to pay a $2,500 fine after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count alleging he voted in both Ellis County and in Colorado in 2012.

▪ Michael L. Hannum, 64, who last week agreed to pay a total of $5,500 in fines after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts alleging he voted in both Johnson County and in Nebraska in 2012.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

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