ELYRIA — Robert Gilchrist pleaded not guilty Thursday to four felony counts of illegal voting and later insisted that he never deliberately voted in the wrong place.
“I didn’t have any criminal intent,” Gilchrist said.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will previously has said the charges against Gilchrist have nothing to do with intent, but whether the former city official voted someplace other than where he was supposed to.
Gilchrist served as service director for former Lorain Mayor Tony Krasienko before leaving to run the Lorain County Community Action Agency last August. He was fired by the LCCAA board in October because of the negative publicity surrounding the voting case and a domestic violence allegation for which he was never charged.
The charges against Gilchrist accuse him of continuing to vote in the city’s 2nd Ward in elections held in November 2009, May and November 2010 and May 2011 even after he had moved from the Broadway apartments where he lived. He first moved to a home on Oak Point Road before moving to a house he now owns on Fields Way, which is in the city’s 8th Ward, according to an investigation by the Lorain County Board of Elections.
In the first instance, Gilchrist said he told a poll worker that he had moved, but the poll worker told him to vote where his driver’s license said he lived and he did so. He said in the May 2011 primary, he was in a hurry to vote and simply went to the polling place he’d previously used.
Gilchrist, who said he’s now working as a small business consultant, said he isn’t certain what spurred Lorain resident Denise Caruloff to bring up his voting history with the elections board, which forwarded its investigation to Will.
Some of Gilchrist’s supporters have said the allegations against Gilchrist, who is black, are racially motivated. Caruloff, who is white, has denied that race was a factor in her complaint.
Gilchrist said he doesn’t know if the accusations against him are because of his race, but added that “I would be a fool to think we don’t live in a racially charged community.”
Gilchrist said he intends to fight the charges against him in the criminal justice system.
“I’ll just go through the process and explain my side,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.