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MANILA - Nine of the first 18 defendants arraigned in the voter-fraud scandal in northeastern Utah's Daggett County said Friday that as tax-paying property owners, they were advised they could vote in the November 2006 election.
Seven of the nine are members of the Raddon family and own property in Salt Lake County as well as Daggett. They pleaded not guilty, as did two other defendants. Further court hearings have yet to be scheduled for this group.
The case stems from fraudulent voter-registration charges brought In March against 51 people. The charge, a class A misdemeanor, is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Not all defendants were scheduled for arraignment on Friday in Judge John R. Anderson's 8th District Court. Other hearings are expected by late spring or early summer.
Fourteen of the 51 had listed as their place of residence the address of the parents of Rick Ellsworth, who unseated Sheriff Alan Campbell in the 2006 election.
Three of those 14 pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced to charge of class B misdemeanor attempt to fraudulently register to vote. Fined $500 each were Zachary B. Millett, Roosevelt, and Wyoming residents Brandon C. Ellsworth and Charles C. Rich.
The judge also sentenced each to 30 days in jail, but suspended the sentences.
The attorney for the seven Raddon family members, Sam Harkness, said his clients were "acting in good faith" when they registered to vote.
"After consulting with local authorities, they were advised they could vote," Harkness said.
Two other defendants, Kevin and Lori Ann Heugly, said they were shocked when they received a summons to appear in court on the voting-fraud charge.
The pair also own property in both Salt Lake and Daggett counties.
"We pay taxes up here and we spend half our time up here," Kevin Heugly said outside court after pleading not guilty. "We were told by county officials that we could vote here as long as we didn't vote anywhere else."
But like the Raddon family, the Heuglys' tax returns and driver licenses give their legal address as Salt Lake County.
"What does that have to do with voting?" Kevin Heugly asked.
Hooper resident Pat Moore, who is scheduled to be arraigned next month, said she has owned a home in Daggett County for 17 years and, like the Heuglys, was advised by county authorities she could vote there as long as it was the only place she voted.
"This whole thing is weird," she said.
But Daggett County Clerk Vickie McKee disputed such contentions.
"I didn't tell anybody they had the right to vote here," she said. "When people were asked about registering to vote here, they were given a copy of the state code."
Six others arraigned Friday accepted "plea-in-abeyance" agreements. They pleaded guilty to class B misdemeanor attempt to fraudulently register to vote and agreed to pay a $300 fine.
None of them actually voted, however, and their guilty pleas will be expunged in 12 months if they break no laws.
The remaining 33 defendants are expected to be arraigned in coming months.
Allegations of voter fraud surfaced in October 2006 when former Sheriff Alan Campbell advised the Utah Attorney General's Office that the voter-registration rolls were swelling in the tiny county of 927 tucked between the Uinta Mountains and the Wyoming state line. Republican challenger Rick Ellsworth unseated Campbell by 20 votes.
* Total charged: 51
* Number of arraignments Friday: 18
* Pleading guilty: 3
* Guilty pleas in abeyance: 6
* Pleading not guilty: 9
* Arraignments pending: 33