|By Chris Maza|
SPRINGFIELD – East Longmeadow town employee Courtney Llewellyn avoided jail time on Sept. 5 after pleading guilty to five charges related to the voter fraud scheme she and her husband, former East Longmeadow Selectman Enrico “Jack” Villamaino concocted to stuff the ballot box in his favor during a 2012 election.
Superior court judge Mary-Lou Rup sentenced Llewellyn to one year of probation with 200 hours of community service on a misdemeanor conviction on one count of interference of an election official. The other four charges – larceny under $250, perjury, forgery and conspiracy – were all continued without a finding, meaning that if she successfully completes a year of probation on those counts, they would be dismissed.
Rup was also the judge that on Aug. 7 sentenced Villamaino, who District Attorney Mark Mastroianni repeatedly called the “mastermind” of the plot, to a one-year split jail sentence for which he is serving four months at the Hampden County House of Corrections in Ludlow. The remaining eight months of his jail term will be suspended.
Rup added that it appeared Villamaino was the leading force in the scheme and the “ends of justice were not best served by a felony conviction” for Llewellyn.
Llewellyn and Villamaino admitted to changing the voter registration status of 284 registered Democrats to unenrolled in order to take out absentee ballots in those individuals’ names in order to illegally cast votes in Villamaino’s favor during the 2012 Republican primary for state representative for the Second Hampden District.
Mastroianni said for her part, Llewellyn, trained in how to use the statewide voter registration database located in the Clerk’s Office where she worked part time, changed enrollment statuses after entering the office after hours, forged signatures on absentee ballot requests, then brought in those requests and processed them with other Clerk’s Office employees after stating that a man came in to drop off the large bundles of documents.
After delivering the sentence, Rup stressed the seriousness of the crimes committed by Llewellyn and Villamaino.
“People in this country are pretty casual about their voting rights. Some don’t vote at all. But it is one of the sacred rights we have that many people in other countries don’t have,” she said. “Conduct like this erodes people’s confidence in their rights and that their votes mean something.”
Both the prosecution and the defense agreed to continue the larceny charge without a finding, however, Mastroianni, who declined to comment on the judge’s ruling after the proceedings, argued for convictions with one-year probation sentences for the perjury, forgery and conspiracy charges as well as a felony conviction on the interference charge.
Llewellyn’s attorney Michael Jennings requested that all charges be continued without a finding.
Mastroianni asked Rup to “consider the serious nature of the offense.”
“This was not a victimless crime,” Mastroianni said. “This kind of interference steps on a right that is held precious by this society.”
He added that Llewellyn’s actions reflect a series of “conscious adult decisions” regarding actions she knew were criminal and that required a significant amount of time, expertise and training.
That said, Mastroianni said he was not pursuing the same punishment that her husband received, explaining that in addition to not being the one who concocted the plan, Llewellyn “assisted in filling in gaps in the investigation” by meeting with Massachusetts State Police investigators and outlining how the two defeated a security system in Town Hall that was equipped with motion-activated video surveillance.
Jennings argued that felony convictions on her record would have a severe negative impact on Llewellyn’s future.
“I can practically hear doors slamming shut when some are found guilty of felonies,” he said. “Lives are changed forever.”
Jennings went on to say that the 28-year-old Llewellyn first came to know Villamaino in 2010 after she left her employ at Reminder Publications and took a position as projects coordinator for East Longmeadow Cable Access Television. It was shortly after that, he said, that she “developed a love” for Villamaino.
However, Llewellyn had previously told Rup she worked for Reminder Publications from 2007 through 2010, covering four suburban towns, including East Longmeadow. Villamaino was first elected to fill an empty seat on the Board of Selectmen in January 2007 and was re-elected to his first full term in April 2008.
Jennings said that Llewellyn had also worked on prior campaigns for Villamaino, but did not specify which ones. In addition to 2012, Villamaino ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2010 and state Senate in 2006 and had local campaigns for selectman in 2007, 2008 and 2011.
He added that Llewellyn told Villamaino on several occasions that the plan wasn’t going to work and was a “reluctant participant” who performed the acts “to please the person she was head over heels in love with.”
Llewellyn was anxious throughout the process to admit her guilt and never denied her part in the plot, Jennings said.
Llewellyn was allowed to speak on her own behalf and recited a prepared statement, during which she cried, pausing at one moment to compose herself in order to carry on.
“I accept full responsibility for my actions in this matter. I knew it was wrong from the beginning and all that I have ever been taught or learned about right and wrong went out the window with this exercise of horrible judgment. I wish I had stopped it or prevented it, but I did not,” she said. “It was an absurd plan and I am glad it did not work. I would like to sincerely apologize to those affected by my actions.
“To the town of East Longmeadow, to which I brought unwelcome and negative publicity, I am sorry. To the citizens of that town whose privacy got violated and their rights tampered with, I’m sorry. To my family, for embarrassing and disappointing them, I’m sorry. And especially to the staff of the East Longmeadow Town Clerk’s Office, who welcomed me, trusted me and befriended me, I betrayed that trust and friendship and I am ashamed and sorry for doing that. That is what haunts me most about my conduct.
“I’ve learned from this negative experience, your honor, and I feel remorse every day. I have terribly tarnished my reputation and have disappointed so many people who I care about. I promise to you and to them to do everything possible in my daily activities from this point forward to make up for the harm I have done.”
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