During a press conference in Buffalo today, while announcing he was not pursuing criminal charges against congressional candidate Chris Jacobs, Erie County DA John Flynn "called out" the anonymous person who filed a complaint against Jacobs for alleged "voter fraud."
"There is no doubt that I'm being used here to a certain extent," Flynn said. "I didn't just fall off the turnip truck, you know. I've been around for a long time. I've seen a lot of things. When I feel like I'm being used, I feel like someone is, put John Flynn aside, someone is using the District Attorney of Erie County and that bothers me a lot."
Flynn declined to name the complainant but said the complainant's failure to identify him or herself is once the complaint was made public -- through an anonymous tip to a Buffalo TV station -- didn't sit well with him.
"I think it's pretty weak that you won't let anyone know who you are," Flynn said. "I'm going to say that publicly and I know the person won't want to hear it and I say, 'too bad.'"
The person who made the complaint called Flynn directly, he said, and then Flynn's staff and that person's attorney exchanged emails about the allegations.
After reviewing the allegations, Flynn decided not to file charges against Jacobs.
The person making the complaint alleged that Jacobs circulated petitions last summer using an address for an Orchard Park house he had made a deposit on but had not yet purchased. If that were a crime, Flynn said, it would be offering a false instrument for filing. And if it were a crime, Flynn said, it would be outside his jurisdiction because the petitions were filed in Albany.
The two other allegations against Jacobs were that he registered to vote at the Orchard Park address on Sept. 3 but didn't close escrow on the property until the end of September. Then, he used that address as his voting address on Nov. 5 while maintaining another residence in Buffalo.
Flynn said Jacobs came into Flynn's office voluntarily and shared with the DA paperwork and information about maintaining two households. He purchased the house in Orchard Park and invested a substantial amount of money in renovations while also continuing to pay utilities on that residence. Meanwhile, after the pandemic hit, Jacobs decided to spend more time in Buffalo where he could be closer to his mother and assist her during the pandemic lockdown.
He said the evidence undercuts any claim that Jacobs might have had an intent to defraud anybody therefore his actions were not criminal.
"Under election law, it is legal to have two residences," Flynn said. "It was Jacobs who voluntarily came into my office and voluntarily gave me the whole story, he readily admitted he owns two homes, readily admitted during COVID-19 crisis he lived more so at home in Buffalo because his mother lives near him and he wanted to stay close by and help his mother
"He readily admitted he spent more time at his buffalo address," Flynn added. "That is not a crime. It is not a crime to have two residences. There is nothing the in law that says you have to live at one resident X-number of days or X-number of hours to have that declared as your residence."
Because Jacobs invested a substantial amount of money in the other house and because he has continued to pay the utility bills there, there is no "aura of a sham," which would be necessary, he said, to prove an election fraud case.
Jacobs issued the following statement following the announcement:
Chris Jacobs is releasing the following statement in response to DA Flynn’s dropping of the false complaint.
“I want to thank D.A. Flynn for his swift dismissal of Beth Parlato’s phony complaint. And I further want to thank D.A. Flynn for allowing me to come in of my own volition and present him with complete documentation that completely disproves these attacks from Beth Parlato.”
“It’s now clear Beth Parlato orchestrated this stunt and abused the justice system solely as a political attack and to run a negative television attack ad. It’s shameful, but not surprising. Beth Parlato must immediately take down her false, negative ads. The voters of Western New York are a lot smarter than Beth Parlato thinks and I suspect they will reject her and her nasty, negative campaign on Tuesday.”
The Batavian offered Beth Parlato a chance to respond to the Jacobs' allegation that she was behind the complaint and got no response to our email request.
Hours after news of a complaint was filed, Parlato released a campaign commercial that accused Jacobs was the subject of a criminal investigation. She also included the same accusation in a press release sent to The Batavian yesterday. There was no criminal investigation, as Flynn revealed today.
Parlato has not issued a statement regarding Flynn's decision to drop the complaint.
“My initial statement on this matter is just as relevant Thursday as it is today: the District Attorney and voters will pass final judgment on Chris Jacobs. Judgment has been passed by the District Attorney. Now, voters will decide for themselves who will be the Republican nominee for New York’s 27th Congressional District in November. Nevertheless, it is troubling to just now find out from the District Attorney that Chris Jacobs admittedly does not live in the 27th Congressional District."
“It is concerning that in a day a complaint of voter and election fraud of a Congressional candidate and State Senator can be dropped, so quickly. No one knew about this until the local news reported it yesterday. Yet here we are, everything resolved with a 5:00 p.m. press conference on a Friday the weekend before an election--just hours after a visit from Jacobs and his attorneys,” said McMurray.
“If only justice worked so swiftly for regular people, and not just people who can afford the best attorneys. I will tell you this, regardless of what loophole he used, what he did was meant to mislead. He knows. But the people of Western New York, most of us never get a break. Chris? He gets all the breaks,” said McMurray.
Speaking of misleading, McMurray posted this tweet this evening:
Jacobs did not refuse an interview with The Batavian. Jacobs, like McMurray, Parlato, Duane Whitmer, and Mychajliw, all participated in interviews.