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Candidate convicted of using false name while voting

December 01, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A man who registered and voted last year under a name he wasn't born with was convicted Thursday of two election-related crimes.

A Washington County Circuit Court jury deliberated for about 30 minutes before finding Roger Dean Weber, 62, guilty of falsely registering to vote and knowingly voting under a false name.

Weber registered, voted and ran unsuccessfully in the 2005 Republican mayoral primary as Charlie Baker - the way he has identified himself for many years, he said. He received about 1 percent of the vote.

Weber's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Stephen Musselman, noted that Maryland lets people change their names through common usage.

However, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said police officers previously told Weber to use his given name for official use.

Despite Weber's lengthy, decades-old criminal record, Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. didn't send him to jail, saying the state got its message across.

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Long sentenced Weber to concurrent six-month jail terms on each count, then suspended them. Weber will be on unsupervised probation for one year.

Weber previously served about three months in jail for failing to appear in court on traffic charges.

Veil told the jury that a person might change names "to leave behind the problems," but didn't explain. Later, he told Long that Weber's past convictions include possession/smuggling of marijuana and forcible entry in California in 1968, assault with a dangerous weapon in Michigan in 1978 and escape from prison in Michigan in 1981.

Instead of pushing for incarceration, the state wants to protect voters, who might know nothing about a candidate except his name, Veil said.

Weber testified that he began using Baker as his name 30 years ago and stuck with it while playing bridge online. As interactions became more personal, "I didn't want to switch," he said.

A judge rejected Weber's attempt in 2004 to legally change his name.

In another name-change petition in September, he wrote that he switched his name because of "identity theft and a need to incorporate friends into my life I'd met on the internet who knew me only as Charlie Baker."

Washington County Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel testified that a Herald-Mail story alerted election officials to Weber's alternate name and that he was living in Berkeley County, W.Va.

But Weber - who had to live in Hagerstown to be mayor - testified that he was an "occupant" at a Kensington Drive apartment, with his girlfriend and her daughter. Told that his name isn't on the lease, Weber alleged the document was wrong, adding, "I'm not sure that it's relevant how often I stayed there."

Kaetzel said the election board verified Weber's county residency by mailing a postcard to his Williamsport post office box. It wasn't returned, so the address was accepted.

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