Georgia Republican Party official denies voting fraud charges in court

Brian K. Pritchard is accused of illegally voting nine times while serving a felony sentence
Brian K. Pritchard testifies on the witness stand Friday as Senior Assistant Attorney General Russell Willard, foreground, asks questions in a Gilmer County courtroom in Ellijay. Pritchard, a talk show host and Republican Party vice chairman, is accused of voting illegally while he was serving a felony sentence. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Brian K. Pritchard testifies on the witness stand Friday as Senior Assistant Attorney General Russell Willard, foreground, asks questions in a Gilmer County courtroom in Ellijay. Pritchard, a talk show host and Republican Party vice chairman, is accused of voting illegally while he was serving a felony sentence. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

ELLIJAY — A top Georgia Republican Party official and talk show host accused of election fraud, Brian K. Pritchard, testified Friday that he never voted illegally while serving a felony sentence for forging checks, but state attorneys showed evidence that he repeatedly voted after his probation had been revoked.

Pritchard, the first vice chairman for the state Republican Party, allegedly broke the law when he voted in nine Georgia elections from 2008 to 2010. Georgia law prohibits felons from voting, and attorneys for the state said Pritchard’s probation didn’t end until 2011.

“There is nothing to the allegations,” Pritchard said after the hearing in the Gilmer County Courthouse. ”I’m just disappointed that this much time is being put into this effort for me when there’s real voter fraud out there, and real things that need to be investigated.”

Pritchard told a judge he thought he had completed his three-year probation sentence in Pennsylvania in 1999, and he wouldn’t have voted in Georgia if he knew his probation had been repeatedly extended over the years while a collection agency sought payment.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Russell Willard told the judge that Pritchard knew better, and his excuses don’t absolve him when Pennsylvania court records indicate he hadn’t finished his sentence.

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Credit: Screenshot

“He has said he is a sophisticated businessman, but suddenly he doesn’t seem to understand the criminal law,” Willard said. “This is someone who chooses when they don’t want to understand something. When he came to Georgia, he was aware that he was registering to vote illegally in Georgia.”

Willard asked Administrative Law Judge Lisa Boggs to order a $9,500 fine — $1,000 for each alleged illegal vote and $500 for registering to vote while he was a felon — along with a public reprimand, a cease and desist order, and reimbursement of investigative costs. Boggs said she would decide the case in the coming weeks.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Pritchard, the head of FetchYourNews.com, has said on his show that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen,” an unsubstantiated claim that has been debunked in Georgia by three vote counts and multiple investigations.

Before he became a leader of the state Republican Party last year, Pritchard attacked Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Attorney General Chris Carr for being “complicit” in Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia. The attorney general’s office handled the case against Pritchard on behalf of the State Election Board, which reviewed the allegations in 2021.

Pritchard testified that he pleaded “no contest” to two counts of forgery and one count of theft by taking involving payments of $38,000 while he was working on a construction job in 1996. Pritchard acknowledged that he endorsed and deposited a check made out with someone else’s name but said he didn’t profit and the construction companies involved were repaid.

To support his case, Pritchard showed a document from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles restoring his right to own a firearm in 2017. The Georgia document indicates his Pennsylvania felony was closed in 1999.

But the state’s attorneys introduced court records from 2002, 2004 and 2011 — each time his probation had been extended.

Pritchard said he didn’t know his sentence was still active during that time, though Willard produced a court document with his signature in 2011 acknowledging his probation could be revoked.

Pritchard’s attorney said he was the victim of Pennsylvania’s court system and its use of a collections agency that kept the case alive long after everyone had been repaid.

“The sentence was supposed to be over. The only way to find he was voting as a felon here is to uphold an unlawful court order in Pennsylvania,” said Pritchard’s attorney, George Weaver Jr.

Willard said Pritchard knew what he was doing.

“I think we know what’s going on here,” Willard said. “The witness came in with a story in his mind and was not going to be shaken on that and claimed a lack of understanding or a lack of knowledge.”

Before becoming a Republican Party official, Pritchard ran unsuccessfully last year for the state House seat that Speaker David Ralston held before he died in 2022.

The election fraud case against Pritchard doesn’t include criminal charges. If the judge finds Pritchard voted illegally, he could face fines or a public reprimand, but he couldn’t be sentenced to jail time.