Former top Erie County lawmaker pleads not guilty to voter harassment

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The charges against Betty Jean Grant accuse Grant of harassing two women in a booth trying to vote, recording one of them on her cellphone camera, and posting the video live on social media.

Grant claims she was only trying to protect the women from intimidation.

In the video, Grant confronted a woman in a blue hoodie, accusing her of illegally instructing two elderly women who to vote for, during early voting in October. The woman, Carolette Meadows, said the voter asked her for help.

“I had no idea that Betty was recording the woman actually doing her ballot sheet and recording her filling out her ballot,” said Meadows.

Meadows wrote a letter to the Erie County Board of Elections, eventually going to District Attorney John Flynn, whose office filed charges against Grant — two counts of violating state election law.

Grant pleaded not guilty to the charges in Buffalo City Court.

“In my opinion, criminal charges should have never been filed,” said Grant’s attorney James McLeod. “It was an incident, an isolated incident, a justifiable incident, in the opinion of Miss Grant.”

Grant said she knew the woman who was getting the help, but suspected there was some intimidation since Meadows was a volunteer for Mayor Brown’s campaign, while Grant was an organizer for then-mayoral candidate India Walton.

“The woman who in question was my neighbor,” said Grant. “I know her, I know her well. She knows me. I’m just disappointed… but I want to thank the community for supporting me and standing for [what’s] right and standing for justice.”

Grant’s attorney, former City Court Judge James McLeod is also asking the judge to throw out the charges against her on the grounds the charging documents are defective.

“It has to be in the form of a complaint and sworn statements from an individual or individuals who claim to be victims or complainants in the case,” McLeod said. “And that was not had here.”

District Attorney John Flynn said it’s okay to help someone in the voting booth if they ask for it, but taking pictures infringes on a voter’s secret ballot protection.

The case is set to return to court on January 4th. Grant is not required to post bail.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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