JUNE 18, 2004 - Posted at 11:58 a.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - An Earle alderman has been found guilty of lying to a grand jury about how many absentee ballots he helped deliver in the 2002 general elections, but a jury couldn't decide on federal charges that the alderman altered ballots to effectively vote more than once.
Alderman Lee Johnson had opposition for the first time in eight years in that election and federal prosecutors argued that he changed people's ballots out of fear he would lose.
But Johnson's lawyer argued yesterday that the government was "stretching" to try to pin obvious ballot tampering on Johnson without any clear evidence that he knew about the fraud.
The jury deliberated for five hours yesterday and two more today before deciding it couldn't reach a unanimous decision about whether Johnson altered ballots or instructed others to do so.
The jury did agree that Johnson lied under oath to a grand jury about whose ballots he carried to polling places for them.
The government has the option to retry Johnson on the two hung counts, and he will be sentenced on the perjury conviction later.