RACINE — A Racine man accused of forging about a half-dozen signatures on recall election petitions pleaded guilty to election fraud on Friday.
Mark S. Demet, 60, pleaded guilty to two counts of election fraud and, in exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss seven other identity fraud charges against him. Demet is accused of falsely signing the names of seven people on recall petitions for state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine. The alleged incidents occurred in late 2011 and early 2012, according to investigators.
Demet, dressed in black and green athletic pants and a green polo shirt, quietly answered “guilty, your honor” when Boyle asked how he wanted to plead.
“I will accept his guilty pleas and find him guilty,” Racine County Circuit Judge Tim Boyle said during the plea hearing.
Demet allegedly admitted to an investigator that he circulated those pages of the petition packet and signed the names of some people. Six residents whose names are listed on those recall petitions reportedly told a Racine County Sheriff’s investigator that they didn’t sign them, according to sheriff’s reports and the criminal complaint.
Further, one of those six people said a seventh name appearing on the recall petition belonged to her husband, who is dead.
The petition sheets also bore Demet’s signature, according to sheriff’s reports and court records. As the petition circulator for those pages, he had to testify as to the accuracy of the information contained on those pages, according to election laws.
Racine County prosecutors charged Demet last year with the nine felony charges: two counts of election fraud and seven counts of felony identity theft for personal gain.
Assistant District Attorney James Newlun said terms of the plea agreement call for the other seven charges to be dismissed. But while not technically being read-in for consideration when Demet is sentenced, Boyle will be allowed to “consider the facts of counts three through nine,” Newlun said.
Newlun said he will recommend a sentence of probation plus some jail time, but he won’t recommend an amount of time he feels Demet should serve in jail. Such jail sentence recommendations by prosecutors are common, but prosecutors also may remain silent on the amount of time they think a judge should hand down.
Defense attorney Patrick Cafferty said Demet also has been under investigation in Kenosha County, and he will ask that those allegations “be read-in here, if the court will agree to that.”
Demet is accused of signing the name of Kenosha County residents’ on petitions there. However, formal criminal charges have not been filed against Demet in the Kenosha County investigation, court records show.
Boyle set Demet’s sentencing hearing for June 7 in Racine County Circuit Court.
Cafferty declined to comment after the hearing, also declining to comment on behalf of Demet.