Judge Calls Vegas Man's Voter Fraud Claim 'a Cheap Political Stunt' That Backfired

On Tuesday, Clark County District Court Judge Carli Kierny said a Las Vegas man's claim of voter fraud is "a cheap political stunt" that backfired.

Donald "Kirk" Hartle admitted that he voted twice in November 2020 in a case that Republicans used to allege voter irregularities, The Associated Press reported. Hartle appeared by videoconference from his defense attorney's office to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of voting more than once in the same election. He told Kierny he regrets his actions and accepted full responsibility for them.

David Chesnoff, Hartle's attorney, stopped Hartle from describing publicly how he voted early with a ballot mailed to his dead wife. Rosemarie Hartle died in 2017 but her name stayed on the voter rolls.

State Attorney General Aaron Ford's office agreed to reduce two felony charges against Hartle to the misdemeanor, Chesnoff told the judge.

Kierny accepted the deal but was unhappy with it. Hartle was fined $2,000 and has to stay out of trouble for a year. The judge set Nov. 17, 2022, as a date to review the result.

"This seems to me to be a cheap political stunt that kind of backfired," Kierny said, "and shows that our voting system actually works because you were ultimately caught."

"Not to follow the negotiations would be a political stunt of my own and I am not willing to do that," she said.

Hartle, 55, is a chief financial officer for companies owned by Republican party finance chairman Donald Ahern. If convicted of the two felonies, he could have received up to eight years in prison.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Donald Hartle, Voter Fraud, November 2020
On Tuesday, a state court judge said that a Las Vegas man's claim of voter fraud was "a cheap political stunt" that backfired. In this photo, people wait to vote in-person at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev., prior to polls closing on Nov. 3, 2020. A Las Vegas business executive whose claim of voter fraud was featured by state Republicans after the November 2020 election has agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of voting more than once in the same election. Scott Sonner/AP Photo

Ahern's company hosted a reelection campaign event in September 2020 for then-President Donald Trump, and Ahern owns a Las Vegas hotel at which a national group espousing fringe QAnon conspiracy theories met in October.

Ford, a Democrat, and Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, issued a joint statement after Hartle's plea.

"I am pleased that the truth was uncovered," said Cegavske, who was censured last April by her own party after being accused of failing to fully investigate allegations of fraud in the 2020 election.

Cegavske repeatedly defended Nevada's election results as reliable and accurate, and denied claims of widespread fraud despite attacks from Trump and other Republicans. Cegavske said after she was reprimanded by the Nevada GOP that she had been attacked for refusing to "put my thumb on the scale of democracy."

"Though rare, voter fraud can undercut trust in our election system," Ford said in Tuesday's statement, adding that his office "will pursue any credible allegations of voter fraud."

Representatives for Cegavske and Ford did not immediately say Tuesday how Hartle's case came to the attention of Secretary of State's office investigators. Officials have said a probe began last November after Republicans cited it among two cases of dead people voting in the election.

The other case, involving a woman who used a deceased relative's ballot instead of her own, was determined to have been accidental.

Nevada GOP officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages about Hartle's plea.

Ford on Tuesday called Hartle's case "particularly egregious because the offender continually spread inaccurate information about our elections despite being the source of fraud himself."

The Nevada GOP tweeted a year ago about Hartle's claim that someone voted with his wife's ballot and urging media "to understand we are finding concrete cases of voter irregularities that they must expose."

Hartle, in an interview with KLAS-TV at the time, said his case "lent some credence to what you've been hearing in the media about these possibilities and now it makes me wonder how pervasive is this?"

State and federal courts in Nevada and other states rejected dozens of election challenges by Republicans and Trump's presidential campaign, including claims of widespread voter fraud.

Certified results in Nevada showed that President Joe Biden, the Democrat, defeated Trump by 33,596 of 1.4 million votes cast, or about 2.4%.

Hartle's was the only active voter fraud case in Nevada, Ford's office said.

In an earlier Nevada case, a 53-year-old man was sentenced last July to up to two years of probation for his guilty plea to one felony charge of voting twice — in Benton, Arkansas, and in Las Vegas — during the 2016 presidential election.

At least five other people have been convicted in Nevada since 2011 of registration fraud during voter recruitment, and one woman pleaded guilty to trying to vote twice in 2012.

Voter Fraud, Las Vegas, Donald Hartle
On Tuesday, a state court judge said that a Las Vegas man's claim of voter fraud in November 2020 was "a cheap political stunt" that backfired. In this photo, voters cast their ballots at Staples Center on November 03, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images) Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

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