Voter fraud has "just been a big problem in the Black Belt … which is not fair to candidates who are running," according to Alabama's former Fourth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Michael Jackson.
Jackson announced an indictment of Perry County Commission chairman Albert Turner, Jr. for felony and misdemeanor counts of voter fraud in January in his last days in office. However, Perry County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins dismissed the case against Turner on April 6.
Jackson told 1819 News on Tuesday, "Judge Wiggins, a good friend of Albert Turner, dismissed it, so I'm not surprised."
"I was going out of office when the indictment happened so it was passed off to the Attorney General's Office and I don't know whether they're going to appeal Judge Wiggins's decision of dismissal or not," Jackson said. "Under Alabama law, you're not supposed to dismiss a case before the trial. The dismissal was premature, but again, Judge Wiggins and Albert Turner are pretty good friends."
Jackson retired in January after Robert Turner, Jr. defeated Jackson in the May primary in 2022.
The Alabama Attorney General's Office was prosecuting the case at the request of the current Fourth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Robert Turner, Jr. in February to "avoid any appearance of impropriety" due to him being the cousin of Albert.
Relating to the May 2022 primary, Albert was indicted for allegedly voting multiple times and inserting multiple completed ballots into the tabulator at a polling location in Perry County. Albert was also indicted for alleged ballot harvesting during the November 2022 general election.
It was alleged that Mr. Turner presented multiple completed absentee ballots for mailing from the U.S. Post Office, according to a press release sent out to the media by former Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on January 11. Albert denied the allegations shortly after they were announced.
Jackson said, "That's not my decision" on whether the dismissal gets appealed or not.
"He got indicted by a grand jury," Jackson said. "There was witnesses and other things about what he did. I don't know if the Attorney General's Office or another agency is going to pick this up on the prosecution but he got indicted."
A spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall declined to comment after the case against Turner was dismissed on April 6 and didn't return a request for comment Tuesday.
According to a 2008 article in Tuscaloosa News, former Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman also received a voter fraud complaint from a citizen about a Mayor of Marion run-off election where votes were allegedly being sold for "$40 and a rock" of crack cocaine. Marion is the county seat of Perry County.
"Voter fraud is a big problem. If you would just Google the history of Albert Turner Jr … years ago, there was some issue about allegedly selling crack for votes when Secretary of State Beth Chapman was (in office)," Jackson said. "There was a big issue in Perry County with him on that issue, and I'm sure you've heard other stories. It's just been a big problem in the Black Belt this voter fraud situation which is not fair to candidates who are running. I happened to be on the ballot this time too. What good is it to run if you have no chance of winning? If folks are stuffing the ballots in the machines? The ballots don't match up with the machines so that's basically all I have to say."
Turner said on social media on Thursday “Jackson’s latest slanderous statement was to say the Chairman was involved in giving away crack and $40 for absentee ballots during an election.”
“Michael Jackson is personally more familiar with crack and drug dealers than I,” Turner said.
Merrill told 1819 News on Monday, "I don't have any regrets about anything I did related to my involvement."
"We were contacted by some constituents, and it was introduced to us that there were some thoughts of irregularities or inconsistencies or improprieties that were introduced related to Chairman Turner's involvement on election day," Merrill said. "When that occurred, what we did was we took that information and reported it to Michael Jackson who is the District Attorney because that's what we do every time something like that was introduced to us more than 1,600 times when I was the Secretary of State."
Merrill also spoke at a press conference in January where Jackson announced the indictment of Turner.
"When I was asked to speak, I did not speak specifically about Chairman Turner or his involvement because I did not know any more than what I shared with you," Merrill said. "I just talked about the process, talked about what we had done, talked about the secured indictments and convictions that we had received (in cases unrelated to Turner) and that if this was indeed the case here where there was enough evidence for a conviction then he would be convicted and, if not, then he would be exonerated. That would be left up to the prosecutors to determine what path they chose and at that time obviously (Jackson) issued an indictment which I never saw. I never read. I was never presented it to see or to read."
Turner called the indictment "political theater at its finest" after it was announced in January and said, "If I am guilty of anything it was making sure Robert Jr. beat the hell out of Jackson and he did that."
Turner said on social media after the case against him was dismissed, "Let it be known that no prosecutor should use their office for a political vendetta."
"My children were upset, and my 86-year-old mother suffered anxiety attacks after hearing that her son would have to face what she, her husband Albert Sr., and Spencer Hogue went through as a defendant in 1986," Turner said. "I don't care if it's me, Donald Watkins, or Donald Trump; a prosecutor should not target individuals because of politics. Michael Jackson and John Merrill will pay for this!"
He continued, "The criminal case is over, and now here comes the civil lawsuit against Michael Jackson and John Merrill."
Turner also said on social media he filed a bar complaint with the Alabama State Bar against Jackson last week for his "phantom voter fraud charge."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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