TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) - The fight over the District 4 Tuscaloosa City Board of Education seat came out of the headlines and into the courtroom Tuesday morning.
The losing candidate, incumbent Kelly Horwitz, is contesting 397 votes cast in the August 27th municipal election that she and her attorneys suspect are illegal.
In a briefing filed in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Monday morning, Horwitz's team explained those suspicions based on evidence of "misconduct, fraud, or corruption and offers to bribe, bribery, intimidation, or other misconduct calculated to prevent a fair, free and full exercise of the elective franchise."
Another briefing that was filed on Friday listed 397 names of voters who Horwitz's attorneys suspect of casting illegal votes.
The intention of Tuesday's status hearing was for Horwitz's team to offer Prima Facie Evidence, or a "basic statement", explaining what makes those votes illegal.
During the hearing, attorneys for Cason Kirby, who won the election by 87 votes, argued that Horwitz's team did not present the necessary evidence required at the hearing. "We still don't now any specific voters that they're claiming are illegal. Haven't identified any," says Kirby's lawyer, Andy Campbell.
"They gave us a list of 400 names, but they're not claiming that many, but they won't tell us which ones and we don't know, and they didn't present evidence of any today."
Campbell went on to argue that Horwitz's team has used misstatements and innuendo to argue bribery and illegal voting in the election. "This is not the way contests are suppose to go," Campbell argued before Judge James Roberts. "Don't let it turn into a three-ring circus."
Kirby's attorneys also argued that Horwitz's team intends to go on a "fishing expedition" on the stand by using the trial for discovery. Campbell told the judge that they have been dealing with a "trial in the newspaper with accusations flying around, but no real evidence."
Campbell also addressed the bribery claims involving alcohol, saying Horwitz's team failed to show evidence beyond a series of e-mails that were allegedly obtained from several Greek organizations on campus.
Campbell argues there is no evidence that a drink was tied to a specific vote, there was no evidence that bribes were ever accepted, and there was no evidence that linked Kirby to the bribes. "It's all about going after an 'evil greek system' and an 'evil machine' and accusing them of being fraudulent and disenfranchising their votes," Campbell argued before Judge Roberts.
"I've been doing election law for 30 years," says Horwitz's attorney, James Anderson, "and I've never had a hearing like this prior to an election contest."
Anderson tells CBS 42 that he does feel they have accomplished everything that the judge requested in order to move forward with the October 31st trial. In response to Campbell's claims that Horwitz's team did not provide Prima Facie Evidence, Anderson argues that the judge was clear not to gather depositions for the hearing and that he was not required to try the case today. Anderson says he mainly focused on the residency requirement at the hearing.
His team believes many of the students were not qualified to vote, based on the fact that they had not resided in District 4 for 30 days prior to the election. He says at trial, they will call on witnesses, establish that they were not eligible to vote, and then ask how they voted.
Both sides say they are hopeful Judge Roberts will make a ruling in the next day or so. Watch above for the full, raw interviews with both attorneys.
Copyright WIAT-TV CBS42
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