A Yale senior charged with violating absentee ballot laws was recently allowed to enter a program of accelerated rehabilitation to avoid potential prison time.
In late October, Michael Montano ’03 was arrested and charged with nine counts of providing “false statement in absentee balloting.” The crime is ordinarily punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. If Montano completes the rehabilitation — which lets the accused perform community service work, in some cases, to avoid a trial — the charges will be expunged from his record.
“Michael clearly had no moral culpability,” said Montano’s attorney, Mark Goodman, in a self-published press release prepared by Montano.
“These charges have been more of an annoyance than anything else,” Montano said in the same statement. “I know I did nothing wrong and I’m happy the [s]tate agrees with me.”
According to the application that Montano filed Dec. 3, an accused person must have “no previous record of conviction of a crime” or of certain other Connecticut general statutes in order to qualify for the program.
He must also pay as much as $425 to complete the program.
Montano is not the first Yale student to opt for this alternative to prison time. Last September, two other Yale students were granted accelerated rehabilitation after being arrested on felony charges related to a protest in Hartford.
Montano served as campaign manager for Ward 16 Democratic Town Committee co-chair candidates Magda Natal and Denise Maldonado. In late October, he was charged with falsely affirming that he aided nine Fair Haven voters in completing applications for absentee ballots in a March election. Montano allegedly completed the portion of the application that is to be signed only by the person assisting in filling it out.
None of the nine people whose ballot applications bear Montano’s signature actually recognized his name or were able to pick his picture out of a photo array, a signed affidavit states. According to the document, Montano’s signature appeared on the ballots to indicate that he assisted voters in completing the forms.
The affidavit, filed in Connecticut Superior Court, also shows that six of the voters “had not applied for an absentee ballot nor had they signed the applications.”
The Office of the Chief State’s Attorney alleged that Montano did not assist the voters in completing the applications yet penned his name attesting that he did.
The application form in question requires a voter to give his name, address, date of birth, and the reason he or she is unable to appear at the polling place on the day of the election. It further requires that the voter and any other person assisting the voter in completing the application sign the document under penalties of false statement.
When Montano was asked why his signature appeared on applications he did not actually assist voters in completing, Montano said an official in the New Haven City Clerk’s Office told him that all applications must be signed by someone from the campaign, according to the affidavit.
Montano could not recall what official gave him these instructions, but described the official as a female of an unknown race, older than 25 years of age, according to the document.
“His mistake was in trusting the word of an official over the printed word,” the self-published statement reported Goodman as saying. The probe into the absentee ballot law violation, which began shortly after the March elections, was conducted by the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, the state Elections Enforcement Commission and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and culminated in late October with Montano’s arrest.
Montano is scheduled to appear in court again in early June.