2008-08-22 / Top Stories

Titus Campaign Challenges Richards' Petitions

Appellate Decision Due Shortly
By Miriam Rosenberg

As the September primaries draw closer, a Far Rockaway assemblywoman is attempting to keep a would-be challenger off the ballot by disputing his petitions.

State Assemblywoman Michele Titus, of the 31st Assembly District, is currently fighting to keep Donovan Richards off the September 9 primary ballot for the Democratic nomination to represent Far Rockaway and parts of the mainland. The Board of Elections threw out most of Richards' 2000 signatures last month after challenges were brought against his petitions. Richards had handed in 2000 signatures when only 500 were needed.

According to Marcus Cederqvist, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, the only name on file to challenge Richards' petitions was Eric L. DeBerry. DeBerry is Titus' husband.

On Tuesday, Richards, his lawyer and lawyers for Titus appeared before a five-judge panel at the State Appellate Court in Brooklyn.

"The judges were hostile toward her lawyers," said Richards. "The previous judge never looked at the petition sheets or my buff cards [which prove voter eligibility]."

Richards went on to say that the panel did not believe that those in the Queens court did their job correctly and that the prior decision was not based on law.

"We don't operate like that down here [in Brooklyn]," Richards quoted one of the judges on the panel as saying.

The Wave spoke with Titus on Wednesday about Richards' court case.

Titus, who said she usually doesn't speak about her campaigns, said she had no knowledge of the case and seemed to be without words when she was asked about her husband being the only one on record as challenging Richards' petitions. She went on to say she knew "there were several citizens who challenged the petitions." When pressed that the Board of Elections only had her husband's name on file as a challenger she said, "Any citizen in the state who lives in the assembly district can challenge a candidate's petitions."

Richards began his quest earlier this month to get the discarded signatures reinstated when he sued to get a judge to go over all the alleged disallowed signatures.

The case was first heard in a Queens courtroom, but the judge refused to hear any evidence.

"The judge motioned to dismiss. He threw it out without even looking at it [our proof]," claimed Rich-ards, who said there was too much corruption in the Queens court.

"How can you go into a courtroom where the judge is friends with the lawyer [of your opponent]," he said.

Richards also alleges that Titus had an unfair edge, since her husband is an officer in the Queens court system who "has relationships with attorneys and all the judges."

In addition to single signatures voided by the BOE, the agency claimed volunteers who collected signatures for Richards were not registered, which allows the board to drop all the signatures the volunteer got.

Robert Narducci and Jamal Wilkerson are two of the volunteers whose collected signatures were thrown out.

According to Richards Narducci, who collected 20 to 30 signatures, has lived in Wavecrest for 35 years and has been registered as a Democrat for 30 years.

Wilkerson, who became a registered Democrat in 1994, is Richards' campaign communications director and obtained 70 to 100 signatures.

"They struck down all my signatures because of the fact we had to prove that I was a registered voter, which we did and we have. Unfortunately we're going through what they normally do. They kick people off the ballot that's a threat."

Wilkerson's signatures were also not restored to Richards' total.

"They're keeping us caught up in court," said Richards. "I guess that's their strategy."

Richards said he expected a decision by the appellate court some time this week. A decision had not been made by press time.

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