Former Vegas ACORN official gets probation

LAS VEGAS "I just want to say I take responsibility for what I did," Christopher Edwards told a judge who responded that he was "not pleased to say the least" by allegations that Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now paid bonuses to canvassers who collected 21 or more voter registration cards in August and September 2008.

"I'm sorry. I truly am," Edwards said, "and it will never happen again."

In the end, Clark County District Court Judge Donald Mosley approved a state attorney general's office plea agreement granting the 33-year-old Edwards probation in return for his testimony against ACORN and a former regional supervisor.

Edwards pleaded guilty in August to two gross misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters. He testified at a preliminary hearing in September that ACORN canvassers making $8 per hour were paid "blackjack" bonuses of $5 per shift if they turned in 21 or more voter registration cards.

Mosley also fined Edwards $500, ordered him to perform 16 hours of community service per month, and warned him that violating probation could put him in jail for a year.

Edwards is expected to be a star witness in a trial scheduled next April for ACORN and a former regional director, Amy Busefink.

Both ACORN and Busefink have pleaded not guilty to felony charges.

ACORN is charged with compensation for registration of voters. Busefink, 27, of Seminole, Fla., is charged with principle to the crime of compensation for registration of voters. The charges carry the possibility of a $5,000 fine for the nonprofit entity, and probation or less than one year in jail for Busefink.

ACORN lawyer Lisa Rasmussen and Busefink's lawyer, Kevin Stolworthy, have said they intend to challenge the constitutionality of the previously untested law, passed in 1997, prohibiting setting quotas and paying canvassers based on the number of voter registration applications they turn in. It was designed to prevent county elections offices from being swamped with false voter registration forms.

A spokesman for ACORN released a statement Monday crediting ACORN with helping tens of thousands of people register to vote during the 2008 campaign, and criticizing Nevada prosecutors for proceeding with the case.

"We are disappointed that even though Mr. Edwards has taken responsibility for his actions, the state of Nevada is still intent on prosecuting ACORN," said Matthew Henderson Southwest regional director.

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