By Michael Campbell, News Editor
WAVERLY – A Sussex grand jury has indicted the mayor of one of its oldest towns, alleging Walter Mason committed election fraud in 2016.
According to court records, Mason was indicted on 12 counts of felony election fraud by the grand jury Tuesday in Sussex County Circuit Court, with the jury issuing a true bill on all charges facing the mayor and longtime resident.
The indictments allege on four different occasions between February and April of 2016, Mason “unlawfully and feloniously, willfully make a false statement or entry on an absentee ballot application,” a violation of Virginia Code Section 24.2-1016.
In addition, court documents further allege that Mason “unlawfully and feloniously aid or abet or attempt to aid or abet” a total of seven different people “in a violation of absentee voting procedures,” violating regulations in Chapter 7, Title 24.2 of the Code of Virginia, which details who is qualified to vote via an absentee ballot.
Providing false statements on an absentee ballot application is considered a Class 4 felony, which carries a term behind bars of between two and ten years and a fine of up to $100,000 while violating absentee voting procedures are deemed a Class 5 felony, with prison time of between one and ten years, “or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.”
The Sussex-Surry Dispatch was scheduled to speak with Mason on Wednesday, March 15 at town offices in Waverly on an unrelated subject, but the interview was canceled abruptly due to “an unexpected matter,” according to Mason, who declined to discuss what had come up at that time.
Calls to town hall offices later Wednesday were answered by staff at the building who said Mason was out of the building for the remainder of the day, with calls to the mayor’s cell phone going unanswered.
In a call to the Sussex County Commonwealth’s Attorney office, Lyndia Ramsey confirmed that Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom has been named special prosecutor on the case and that she could not comment on the status of the ongoing legal matter.
Messages were left with Brancom’s office for comment on the case.
Additionally, a special agent for Virginia State Police was noted as a witness on the indictments but, when asked, police spokesperson Corinne Geller stated that the department could not confirm or deny the status of the investigation against Mason.
In speaking with officials with the court, who declined to speak to the specifics of the case, they explained the direct indictments levied against an individual would result in a capias, or warrant for arrest, being issued for the person’s arrest, which would have that person be taken into custody, brought into court and given a bond amount from the magistrate, allowing them to be free as they await their next court appearance if they post the specified amount.
It is unknown if Mason has been served with that warrant as of the time of this article.
In 2016, Mason won the mayor’s race in the town, carrying nearly 43 percent of the vote during the May elections, defeating challengers Susan Pope Irving, Miriam Deyonel Edwards, and Marvin Jerome Drew, II.
Including his current term, Mason has served as mayor three times, winning election to the position in 2010 and 2012. He was defeated by challenger Barbara Gray in the 2014 mayoral election in the town.
This is a developing story and it will be updated as more information becomes available.
Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing