RICHMOND, Va. - A judge on Wednesday ruled Shaun Brown should be removed from the ballot in the second congressional district.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Gregory Rupe said there was a pattern of fraud and "sophomoric" mistakes on the petitions to qualify Brown to run as an Independent candidate.
She needed 1,000 signatures to qualify, but amid those questions Judge Rupe said she didn't have enough signatures and ordered her to be removed.
Democrats had sued state election officials in an effort to prevent them from printing her name on the ballot.
Brown was in a three-way race with Republican Congressman Scott Taylor and Democrat Elaine Luria. Taylor's staffers helped collect signatures to qualify Brown to be an Independent candidate, but Democrats say dozens of people have come forward to say they never signed it.
Separately, a special prosecutor is investigating whether Taylor's staff did anything illegal.
Democrats subpoenaed several people to the hearing, including Taylor, but the judge ruled that Rep. Taylor did not have to appear Wednesday.
Six people connected to the Taylor campaign signed affidavits indicating they would plead the fifth amendment about their involvement to the signature collections. Among the questions is whether Rep. Taylor directly instructed them to collect the signatures.
"Hopefully the signal from the judge today is that we are better than that," said Jeffrey Breit, attorney for the Democratic Party of Virginia.
In addition to allegations of forgery, Brown also faced questions about where she lives and the address listed on the petitions. Brown tried to explain it outside of the courthouse, saying she was in the process of moving and didn't get a chance to correct them.
"When you put out your petitions with address, it is difficult to call them back in and make changes, so here were are today," said Brown.
Brown, who says she plans to appeal, invoked Nike's new ad campaign with Colin Kaepernick to prove the point that she's not giving up in the race. "Believe in something even if you have to sacrifice it all," she said. "This is one of those moments."
After the ruling Scott Taylor's campaign spokesperson Scott Weldon said:
“Given that the Democrat lawsuit was purely political and has now successfully excluded Shaun Brown, it’s understandable that individuals would exercise their right not to testify today. Our campaign will continue to cooperate with the investigation and make no further comment while it is ongoing.”
Meanwhile, Elaine Luria released a statement of her own:
Today’s decision by the Richmond Circuit Court makes no difference to how I will conduct my campaign. I have said from the beginning that I am running against Scott Taylor’s voting record. His votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have removed health care coverage from 45,400 of his constituents, and his vote for the Republican tax bill that will increase the deficit by nearly two trillion dollars were irresponsible and favor big business over his own constituents. Additionally, Scott Taylor himself suggested that the debt could be paid for with cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two crucial programs that our families and veterans who earned these benefits depend upon.
From the time this fraud became public knowledge, Congressman Scott Taylor has dodged responsibility for the criminal actions of his paid staff. He has blamed the 'National Democrats,' called it a 'nothing burger' and a 'smear campaign,' and threatened the individual who discovered the fraud. Scott Taylor has also said he did not direct his staff to take these actions and he would fire anyone involved in criminal activity. Every individual associated with Congressman Taylor's campaign who did appear in court today, including three staffers and his campaign consultant, invoked their Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate themselves when asked if he directed their efforts. And while that is their constitutional right, in this situation, it has the appearance of guilt.
As a Commanding Officer in the Navy, I could always delegate authority to the lowest level, but I could never delegate responsibility. Scott Taylor needs to stand up and take responsibility for what Judge Gregory Rupe called 'out-and-out fraud.' This is not the kind of moral character this district, or our country, deserves.