Everybody agreed: When Gladys Coego covertly filled in other people’s absentee ballots while working at the Miami-Dade elections headquarters, she chipped away at the integrity of the voting system.
But at 74 years old, Coego is elderly, diabetic and depressed, her relatives told a judge on Wednesday.
She had no previous criminal record. And nobody – not detectives, prosecutors and or even Coego herself – could say why she filled in the ballots. She had no known ties to any campaign, there was no evidence anyone paid her and she illegally filled only a few ballots before being spotted. Yet her small-time case led to bigly national headlines, coming as then-candidate Donald Trump railed about widespread national voter fraud.
“Emotionally, I am destroyed,” Coego said in Spanish. “I have no explanation for what I have done .... no one offered me anything in exchange for what I did.”
For those reasons, a Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday declined to sentenced Coego to jail, instead ordering her to serve two years of house arrest, plus three years of probation.
Circuit Judge Alberto Milián acknowledged “there is a perception in this community that there is a lack of integrity in the election process, especially in the issue of absentee ballots.”
“This appears to be an isolated incident,” Milián said, adding: “I don't want to make this defendant a poster child or scapegoat for the perceived inequities of the system.”