Lawsuit over voter fraud prosecution dismissed by judge

Dec 26, 2017 From staff reports

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from a Dubois woman who claimed Fremont County officials had prosecuted her maliciously for voter fraud.

The judge said Harley Wells could not prove malicious prosecution.

Federal law requires Wells to show that the prosecution was "terminated in favor of the defendant."

Lesser charge

Prosecutors did drop the felony charges against Wells, but she ultimately pleaded no-contest to a lesser misdemeanor: disturbing a polling place.

"In other words, Ms. Wells was ultimately convicted of a charge arising out of the underlying prosecution," judge Scott Skavdahl wrote in his order of dismissal.

Skavdahl also said that Wells failed to "provide any cogent factual support" to prove her allegation that "there was no probable cause supporting the original arrest and continued prosecution."

First case

In 2016, Wells became the first person in Fremont County ever to be charged with voter fraud. The prosecution was complicated by a web of personal connections: At the time, Wells's then-boyfriend had been involved in a contentious divorce with Kathy Hooper, and Hooper's sister-in-law - Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese - and son - Fremont County deputy Brady Patrick - both played a role in investigating Wells, who had voted in at least one election despite being a convicted felon.

Because felons who illegally vote had not historically been prosecuted for voter fraud in Fremont County, Wells argued her unprecedented case violated her rights under the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

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