FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A Forrest County attorney who ran for state office in 2017 pleaded guilty Monday to voting outside of his legal district.
Attorney General Jim Hood said Lowndes County Judge Lee Coleman sentenced 28-year-old Cory Ferraez to six months in jail with all six months suspended. He was also ordered to pay a $200 fine and $200 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
Hood said Ferraez illegally voted in Lowndes County in 2015 even though he was living in Hattiesburg. Ferraez was arrested in December after a grand jury indicted him for swearing to a false application for absentee ballot and voting outside of his legal domicile.
The swearing to a false application for absentee ballot charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement.
"The defendant is a lawyer, who appeared before the State Election Commission, and was warned by my Deputy AG on the record that it is illegal to claim residency in one place yet vote in another," said Hood. "He was told that an investigator was present and recording the meeting. When he qualified to run, he filed a sworn statement that he had lived in Hattiesburg for the two year period required by law. At the Election Commission meeting, he was confronted with his Lowndes County voter record during those two years. It is voter fraud to vote where you do not reside. Of all people, a lawyer should follow the law, especially after he was given the courtesy warning."
According to a statement from an attorney representing Ferraez, he voted in an election in Lowndes County in October 2015. The statement says Ferraez was registered to vote in Lowndes County at the time.
The statement says Ferraez registered to vote in Forrest County in 2016 after living in Hattiesburg for over a year. In 2017, Ferraez declared he had been a resident of Hattiesburg for two years, which satisfied the residency requirement to run for public office.
Last year, Ferraez ran for the Mississippi House District 102 seat vacated by Toby Barker after he was elected Mayor of Hattiesburg. Ferraez did not reach the runoff election, which was won by Missy McGee.
The statement from Ferraez's attorney called the charges pursued by the District Attorney's Office "politically motivated" and a "political witch hunt."
"This is the first case of its kind to be indicted by any Attorney General ever in Mississippi. The entire indictment was politically motivated and an abuse of process, which has no place in our judicial system," said one of Ferraez's attorneys, Jace Ferraez. "Further, Cory did not plead guilty to voter fraud. Cory only plead to voting outside his legal domicile or residence because he was legally registered to vote in Lowndes County. Cory wants this political witch hunt behind him, so he can focus on helping his clients all across the state. Cory has a long and established record of service in any community in which he has been involved. The politics of personal destruction will not win, and although we would have preferred a complete dismissal, this resolution allows us time to focus on what matters in our great state—representing the people."