LAS VEGAS — A former Las Vegas director for a political advocacy group accused of illegally paying canvassers to register voters during last year's presidential campaign has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and agreed to testify against the group and another employee.
Christopher Edwards pleaded guilty this week to two gross misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters. He agreed to testify against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, and Amy Busefink, a former regional voter registration director.
The case threatens the group's ability to operate in Nevada, with the possibility that the group could have its status as a nonprofit corporation revoked, said Conrad Hafen, chief deputy attorney general for Nevada.
ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring called the plea deal a "desperate attempt to get publicity and grab headlines."
FROM May 5, 2009 CBS News coverage:
ACORN Charged With Fraud
Of the more than 91,000 people ACORN registered in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, 28,097 were duplicates and 18,947 did not match motor vehicle or social security records. The bogus names included Dallas Cowboy players Tony Romo and Terrell Owens, and Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
In a statement, ACORN spokesman Scott Levinson told CBS News the organization does not pay employees on a "bonus or incentive system" and that ACORN brought all suspicions of voter registration fraud to the attention of Nevada election officials. He also called the charges "the latest in an ongoing assault designed to blame the victim and prioritize media grandstanding about the pursuit of justice."