BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — All felony charges have been dropped against Rus Thompson. The conservative political activist reached a deal, pleading guilty to a second degree misdemeanor.
“The distinction between the felony and misdemeanor is whether or not Mr. [Rus] Thompson had the intent to defraud,” said John Flynn, the Erie County District Attorney. “That’s the crux of this whole case.”
“I went and voted where I had been voting,” said Thompson, admitting to filling out the affidavit ballot. “I never contacted the board of elections, never unregistered to vote, never re-registered to vote. I voted in one place – Grand Island, New York.”
At the time Thompson voted there, he was living in Niagara Falls. Thompson says when he arrived to vote in September 2015 for the primary election, his registration wasn’t at the place he always voted so he filed out an affidavit ballot and cast his vote.
It’s that act – voting at the Grand Island precinct while living in a different area — that’s landing him in court.
“He did something wrong, obviously,” said Flynn. “He filed a false document. There’s no doubt about it.”
In May 2016, Thompson was indicted on several voter fraud felonies, carrying a possible four year prison sentence, if found guilty. On Thursday, the District Attorney’s office offered Thompson a deal – he pleaded guilty to second degree Offering False Instrument for Filing, a misdemeanor; all felony charges were dropped; Thompson agreed not to appeal.
“I’m thankful the new DA, John Flynn, took the politics out of this,” said Thompson who feels he’s being targeted for being an outspoken citizen. “People are sick of the game. They’re sick of the political games out there.”
Thompson, a conservative, has been a political activist on Grand Island since the mid-1990s. He says he has been vocal about people on the board and has supported those who have views aligned with his, including Carl Paladino and Donald Trump. Thompson feels the issue, leading up to the charges being filed, began in 2014; saying board members opposition to him living on a certain piece of land and doing machinery work on the parcel caused him to be evicted. That’s why he moved to Niagara Falls, adding he felt it was a temporary move and that’s why he never changed his registration; on top of that, he still rented a shop on Grand Island and says he spent most of his time there.
“You can’t tell me this wasn’t a set up,” said Thompson. “They try to take you down and if they can’t beat you one way they try to take all your money.When they start hitting you in your back pocket, in your wallet and it’s all vindictive politics, it’s got to end.”
The activist says, throughout the ongoing legal process, he has spent tens of thousands of dollars, on top of losing sleep and forming an ulcer as the possibility of spending years in prison was hanging over his head.
The judge agreed to not impose any jail time during the sentencing, saying it’s likely Thompson will get 3 years probation.
Now, walking out of court and knowing all of those worries are gone with the felony charges off of the table, he’s feeling good and says it’s a big win.
“Everybody sees this as an injustice and that’s what this was. I’m glad it’s coming to an end.”
Thompson will be back in court May 3, 2017 to find out his sentence.