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December 18, 2014

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Ex-ACORN official gets probation for voter registration plan

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Justin M. Bowen

Christopher Edwards, former ACORN Las Vegas field director, testifies Sept. 29 during a preliminary hearing regarding a voter registration incentive plan.

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Amy Busefink, ACORN's deputy regional director, who authorities allege was involved with an alleged illegal voter registration incentive program, appears in court Sept. 29 in Las Vegas.

A former field director for the political advocacy organization ACORN was sentenced today in district court to up to three years of probation.

Christopher Edwards, who in August pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit a crime of compensation for registration of voters, a gross misdemeanor, received a suspended jail sentence and a $500 fine. He has agreed to testify against ACORN and one of its former regional directors, Amy Busefink.

The Nevada attorney general’s office has accused ACORN and Busefink of operating an illegal bonus system. Tying money to or setting quotas for collecting voter registration cards is illegal under Nevada law.

“I take responsibility for what I did,” Edwards told the court. “I’m sorry, I truly am.”

Busefink and ACORN pleaded not guilty on Oct. 27. A trial date is set for April 19.

If convicted, Busefink likely would face probation or less than one year in jail. ACORN could see a $5,000 fine.

The attorney general’s office said Edwards organized and operated a quota system called “blackjack” or “21+” through which the group paid canvassers based on the number of voter registration cards they collected each day. The canvassers were to gather at least 20 completed cards daily and anyone who turned in 21 or more would be given an extra $5.

Busefink, as a manager, is said to have approved the “blackjack” program. But ACORN officials have said Edwards acted alone in developing and carrying it out.

In handing down his sentence, Judge Donald Mosley said he wasn’t pleased with the negotiations but cited Edwards’ agreement to testify in giving him probation. Edwards is also required to complete community service.

Nevada Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen is the lead prosecutor in the case. He wasn’t present in court today; David Rickert, a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office, declined comment after the hearing. Edwards and his attorney, Dan Silverstein, declined to speak with the media.

An election task force last year began to investigate ACORN over questionable voter registration tactics. The charges against Edwards, ACORN and Busefink stemmed from information obtained during that investigation.

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