Clark County District Court Judge Donald Mosley handed down a $5,000 fine Wednesday and criticized the now-bankrupt corporation for election activities he said were more commonly seen in a “banana republic” than in the U.S.
“It is making a mockery of our election process. If I had an individual in this courtroom ... who was responsible for this kind of thing, I would put that person in prison for 10 years, hard time,” Mosley said, according to reports from Fox News.
Prosecutors say ACORN authorized a Las Vegas operative to run a voter-registration program in the 2008 election cycle that paid cash incentives for signing up voters and forced workers to meet quotas to keep their jobs.
The program, called Blackjack or 21-Plus, rewarded employees with $5 extra per shift if they turned in 21 or more completed voter registration cards.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal said Nevada prosecutors dropped 12 other felony counts against ACORN after the organization pleaded guilty in April to one count of felony compensation for registration of voters.
ACORN has said it did not authorize the compensation program.
Investigators started looking into the case after several false registrations were turned in to a county voter registrar. One cluster of registration forms used names from the Dallas Cowboys football team. ACORN attorney Lisa Rasmussen said those did not originate from ACORN workers.
The field operative who created and ran the incentive program, Christopher Edwards, is serving three years of probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters.
Edwards’ former supervisor, Amy Busefink, was sentenced to a year of probation after pleading no contest to two counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters.
The newspaper reports Busefink is appealing to the Nevada Supreme Court over the state statute, which makes it unlawful to base compensation upon the total number of voters a person registers.
The state will likely face challenges collecting the fine against the group.
Court records show that when ACORN folded in April 2010, its assets totaled less than $4,000 and liabilities totaled more than $4 million.
Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, told Fox News the case shows a hard-line stance on election fraud.
“The message out there is that we are not just going to look the other way, when we see these types of violations,” Miller said.