Updated Fri, Jul 5, 2013 11:28 am
A former Ohio University student will spend time behind bars after pleading guilty to 23 felony charges involving election fraud.
Timothy Zureick, 22, of Cincinnati, entered into a plea agreement in Athens County Common Pleas Court in April that saw him plead guilty to 22 counts of obtaining false signatures and one charge of election falsification. The plea agreement called for the Athens County Prosecutor's Office to recommend five years of community control, with a five-year underlying sentence should Zureick re-offend.
On Tuesday, Zureick appeared in front of Judge L. Alan Goldsberry to be sentenced. Goldsberry elected to follow the plea agreement, but also imposed a week's worth of jail time as well as 100 hours of community service.
In August, Zureick was arrested and charged after an investigation uncovered that signatures from a petition drive to place the Voters First Amendment on the November ballot were not valid. The amendment would change the way Ohio draws legislative and congressional districts. A total of 238 petitions were submitted to the Athens County Board of Elections and eight were determined to be invalid, which included 543 false signatures.
It was determined that one of the signatures falsified was the name of a precinct poll worker, which caught the eye of officials and sparked the investigation. Zureick was accused of actually signing the names himself. The offenses carried the possibility of 23 years in prison and a maximum fine of $57,500. Blackburn previously told The Messenger that an election-related crime to this extent had not occurred in the county for more than 20 years.
"This young man made bad choices in the electioneering process and the offenses were more severe than imposing diversion," Blackburn said Friday. "This was an act against democracy itself."
Zureick can serve his seven days of jail in segments over the next six months.