Attorney for ex-Marco councilor disappointed in mixed verdict
The attorney for former Marco Island City Councilor Victor Rios is speaking out following a mixed verdict last week in Rios’ trial for allegedly fixing a condo board election in 2019.
Rios, 80, was convicted on three counts of personal information fraud and cleared of two counts of forging a public record. Each count is a third-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Defense attorney Seth Kolton expressed disappointment with the convictions in an interview with the Marco Eagle, but said he and his client respect the jury’s decision.
“Our argument was Mr. Rios did not engage in the conduct for which he was charged,” Kolton said. “We were very glad that Mr. Rios was exonerated on the forgery charges, which I think were really the more serious of the charges because those really speak to the core of an election.”
Sentencing is expected in June, according to the Office of State Attorney Amira Fox.
Rios allegedly altered ballots to make it appear that residents of the Belize Condominium Association who did not vote in the election had actually voted for him. The election results showed a 97 percent voting rate, which one resident cited as suspicious in a complaint to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
The election was contentious, and two residents asserted their right to inspect the ballots, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.
The residents found that some of the ballot envelopes appeared to bear the same handwriting and 12 people who had purportedly voted for Rios told investigators that they had not in fact voted, according to the FDLE report. Forensic testing allegedly found Rios’ DNA on the envelopes of the contested ballots.
Kolton noted that Rios’ DNA was only found on external ballot envelopes, not the anonymous internal envelopes or the actual ballots.
“The state didn’t have any evidence that Mr. Rios had ever actually filled out the ballots nor was there any evidence that he had put those ballots in the inner ballot envelope,” Kolton said.
Rios has not yet decided whether he will appeal the verdict, Kolton said.
Rios was elected to the Marco Island council in 2014 and resigned mid-term in October 2020, citing “personal reasons.” Four months later, authorities charged him with fraud for allegedly fabricating votes to remain on the board of the Belize Condominium Association.
The former councilor denied wrongdoing in a 2019 interview with the Marco Eagle.
“I swear on the Bible I have never committed an illegal act,” Rios said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: defense attorney speaks out;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link “>Victor Rios condo election fraud: defense attorney speaks out
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