Suttle’s day in court

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December 20th, 2010

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Omaha, NE –    The proposed recall election of Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle was challenged in court today. Opponents say the recall petition drive should be dismissed, because it was fraught with fraud.

A hearing challenging the recall of Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle began in Douglas County District Court today (Photo courtesy nebraskahistory.org)

At the start of the hearing, Suttle’s attorney Vince Powers  brought three witnesses to testify, who each said their names appeared on the Mayor Suttle Recall Petition pages, but that they were never approached by petition circulators, and they never signed any petitions. Powers also called two witnesses, Juan and Cirilo Baca, who said they were hired as petition circulators, and that they were paid by the signature collected: an illegal practice according to Nebraska law. A sixth witness, Anthony Craddock, said he was hired as a witness to sign off on signatures being gathered. But, he said, about 50% of the signatures he signed off on, he had not in fact witnessed.

In testimony, Craddock was cross-examined by the attorney defending the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee, who asked if petition opponents ever interfered with the signature gathering process. Craddock said that happened frequently, and that at one point, he was maced by an opponent. Other circulators had their clipboards snatched from them, he said. “It was unbelievable,” he said, “I wish I’d never done it to be honest with you.”

Jeremy Aspen, the spokesperson for the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee testified that petition circulators were never paid by the signature, and that the Bacas’ testimony was false. In an interview after the hearing, Aspen said Suttle’s lawyers had no “smoking gun” and that the testimony invalidated no more than 10 signatures, whereas the petition drive gathered over 2,000 more than was required to put the recall on the ballot.

The hearing, before District Judge Peter Bataillon, is likely to continue through tomorrow, and possibly Wednesday. If Bataillon allows the recall to proceed, a recall election will be set by the Omaha City Council, likely at the end of January.

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