Niagara Gazette

Local News

October 18, 2013

Zona, Destino cleared after county investigation

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara County Sheriff's Office has cleared county lawmaker Jason Zona and Niagara Falls attorney Johnny Destino of any wrongdoing following an investigation into an allegation of absentee ballot fraud in the race for the legislature's 5th District seat. 

In a release issued Friday, the sheriff's office announced that it found no evidence of criminal activity after investigators, working with the Niagara County District Attorney's Office, examined records from the county board of elections and conducted interviews with individuals tied to the case. 

"After a review of all information gathered it was determined that no criminal wrongdoing occurred," the sheriff's department said in a statement. "The investigation has been closed." 

Both Niagara County Republican Party Chairman Scott Kiedrowski and Niagara Falls Republican Committee Chairperson Pat Castillo called for a criminal probe into the handling of an absentee ballot obtained for a Conservative Party voter before the Sept. 10 primary. The leaders of both committees accused Zona and Destino, both Democrats, of obtaining the absentee ballot by fraudulent means. 

Their accusations were supported with an affidavit from a registered Conservative from the Town of Niagara who claimed a man she thought was Destino visited her home with a completed absentee ballot and encouraged her to sign it. Republicans charged that the move was made in an effort to "manipulate" her vote.

Questions were also raised about a box on the ballot pertaining to the reason for the need to vote by absentee. The voter indicated that she believed the box, marked "temporary illness," may have been checked after she signed, with Republicans suggested either Zona or Destino, or both, had something to do with it. 

Zona and Destino denied the allegations, with Destino claiming he never visited the voter's home on the day in question. 

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