Kelvin Ellis, 55, of East St. Louis, a former Democratic precinct committeeman and former director of the city's Regulatory Affairs Department, pled guilty to obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness in a volatile election fraud and vote buying case.
The plea was announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Ronald Tenpas.
Ellis was set to go to trial Oct. 17.
The plea acknowledged that during October 2004, Ellis learned that an individual, Jane Doe, had become a cooperating government witness in a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of election fraud and vote buying in East St. Louis during the March 2004 primary election, and leading up to the November 2004 general election.
He pled guilty to the first charge of obstruction of justice, which holds a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment or a $250,000 fine, or both, and up to three years' supervised release.
Ellis' sentencing is scheduled for April 6, 2006. The indictment against Ellis was returned by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis on January 20.
He also pled guilty to the second and third counts which charged violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1503, Obstruction of Justice, Tampering With A Witness.
Ellis pled guilty to these charges, without a plea agreement with the government. The government advised the court that it would seek dismissal of count four of the indictment, charging obstruction of justice, tampering with a witness, for evidentiary reasons.
Ellis was aware that he was a target of a grand jury investigation.
According to a press release issued by Tenpas' office, the indictment alleged that Ellis schemed with an individual who, unbeknownst to Ellis, was a government informant, to discredit Jane Doe by planting crack cocaine on her and having her arrested and jailed.
The indictment further alleged that during November 2004, Ellis schemed to have Jane Doe killed in order to prevent her continuing cooperation in the ongoing grand jury investigation against him.
As to the second and third counts, the indictment alleged that Ellis attempted to obstruct the ongoing federal grand jury investigation by directing two other witnesses to refuse to testify before the grand jury concerning their knowledge of election fraud and vote buying committed by Ellis and others.
At the time of the guilty plea, the government proffered details of its evidence that it was prepared to present at trial. Proffered evidence detailed the lengthy federal investigation into allegations of election fraud and vote buying in East St. Louis regarding the March 2004 Presidential primary and the November 2004 general election.
Evidence was detailed regarding the conduct of defendant Ellis and other East St. Louis precinct committeemen in paying voters, and the grand jury investigation into that conduct.
Evidence was detailed that Ellis took substantial steps in scheming to have the government’s witness, Jane Doe, arrested with crack cocaine which he directed to be planted on her and ultimately he schemed to have her killed in order to prevent her continued cooperation in the ongoing grand jury investigation.
Further, the proffer detailed how Ellis directed other precinct committeemen to refuse to testify before the grand jury, in order to protect himself from being charged. Ellis also awaits sentencing on two other pending cases.
On Aug. 26, Ellis pled guilty to tax evasion. Sentencing is set for Nov. 30.
On June 29, Ellis was convicted by a jury of election fraud. There is no date set for sentencing pending the court’s ruling on a motion for a new trial.