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Mulholland interviewed on Fox News

Local viewers of Fox News on Sunday morning might have seen a familiar face on their screen, as South Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Mulholland was interviewed by the national news station about his prosecution of a voter-fraud case in Brooks County, Ga.

Mulholland spoke to Fox News newsman Eric Shawn for approximately four-and-a-half minutes about the case, which involves 12 citizens charged for allegedly tampering in a July 2010 primary election.

According to the Valdosta Daily Times, school board incumbents Gary Rentz and Myra Exum were leading in their races, before the absentee ballots were counted. After those 979 absentee ballots were tabulated, challengers Linda Troutman and Elizabeth Thomas were able to overtake the incumbents’ leads and eventually win election in November.

On Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Troutman and Thomas, as well as another school board member, Nancy Whitfield-Dennard. All were charged with three counts of unlawful possession of ballots and three counts of violation of procedure for voting by absentee ballots. Ten other people have also since been charged in connection with the alleged fraud, and most of those are family members and friends of the three elected officials, Mulholland said.

“Once an absentee ballot goes out to a voter, it’s for that person only,” Mulholland said. “This was a situation where some of the individuals, who are charged in the case, were making sure that the ballots were mailed, and going to the voters’ houses to make sure they got there and that those citizens actually voted. That’s illegal.”

Mulholland said that the number of absentee ballots in the 2010 primary election was roughly three times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2008 national presidential election. He said the GBI interviewed several hundred voters and launched a full investigation before making the arrests.

“It’s pretty clear there was fraud here,” he said. “Some of the names on those ballots that were returned were unregistered voters who had been gone for years.”

Mulholland said the district attorney in charge of the Brooks County Superior Court recused himself in the case, and the state attorney general appointed Mulholland to prosecute.

“I believe this should be tried in the federal courts,” he said. “The difficult part of a case like this is that these people are elected officials because they’re popular and everyone knows them. You have to convince 12 jurors of that particular county of their guilt. I already asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to take up the case and was turned down, but we’re going to try to ask them again.

“I truly believe the federal system is much more suited for this kind of case.”

Mulholland said he traveled to the Fox affiliate in Tallahassee, Fla., on Sunday morning to do the interview, which was broadcast live.

“I’ve done interviews with Fox stations in the past,” he said. “The last time I did one was for a Chicago Fox affiliate, and they let me know I’d done a good job and they’d probably ask me to be on TV again.”

In fact, Mulholland thought Sunday’s interview was for a network affiliate as well, which was why he was surprised to get phone calls from family across the country.

“My grandmother called me from Colorado and said, ‘I saw you on TV!’” he said.

Mulholland said he’s not sure why Fox News showed such interest in the story, because it’s not even an example of party politics. He has also recently done interviews with the Associated Press concerning the story.

“The really odd thing about this case is that these were primary elections and both the incumbents and challengers were Democrats,” he said. “This wasn’t an issue of party politics, it was simply straight-up corruption.

“It’s sad, I think. You’re electing people to help educate the students in that community, and the only education they’re getting is how to manipulate the electoral process.”

Mulholland said that if the trial stays in Brooks County, it will likely be held sometime next year.