John Stafford sentenced to probation in illegal voting case

Prominent local jeweler, who had been active online in Bellbrook-Sugarcreek politics, voted in district where he didn’t live; he apologized in court Friday

A local jeweler has been sentenced to five years of probation and 40 hours of supervised community service, in connection with a ballot tampering case in 2022. Stafford was also fined $2,500 and court costs.

John Stafford, who owns Stafford’s Diamonds near the Dayton Mall, pleaded guilty in February to one count of tampering with a ballot, a fifth-degree felony, and one count of falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor, in Greene County Common Pleas Court.

Stafford had faced two felony counts, one each of illegal voting (Felony-4) and tampering with records (F-3). Those were both dropped and replaced with the “tampering with a ballot” felony.

Stafford had also faced one misdemeanor count of failing to provide notification of a change of address. That was changed to the falsification misdemeanor.

“I screwed up. There’s no other way to say that,” Stafford said in court Friday. “There was never any intention or scheme on my part to break the law.”

Stafford went on to apologize to his wife and family, saying the situation has “embarrassed” him and them.

“They deserve better,” he said. “I’ve accepted responsibility for what has happened. I apologize to the community for my actions.”

In closing remarks, the prosecution pointed out that Stafford knew what his address was when he entered the polling location, and would have known to correct the poll worker if his drivers license had an incorrect address.

“He says it was a mistake,” said Senior Assistant Attorney General Brad Tammaro. “But he forgets the falsification charge. ... When the defendant walked in there to vote that day, he knew he didn’t live in Sugarcreek Twp., and he knew he was living in Warren County, not in Greene County.”

Stafford’s defense said that Stafford’s lack of criminal history, and the rarity of a ballot tampering case should be considered in the sentencing.

“He has demonstrated that he is a man who has good character, has not violated the law in the past, and is a good candidate for community control sanctions,” said attorney Steven Dever.

Community control sanctions accomplish the purposes of felony sentencing, Judge Dennis Langer said.

“These crimes are serious. They are grave crimes,” Langer said. “You said it better than I ... it undermined the sanctity of the vote, and harm has been caused.”

Numerous letters were submitted to the court regarding sentencing in the case, but cannot be considered by law, the judge said.

Stafford, who previously lived in the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school district area, had been very involved in Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school board and school levy elections in recent years via social media accounts, and was charged with illegal voting and tampering with records related to the November 2022 election.

Stafford also is the plaintiff in an ongoing federal lawsuit against the Sugarcreek Police Department, WHIO-TV, and several other defendants related to a May 2021 incident in which Stafford was cited for aggravated menacing. Those charges against Stafford later were dismissed.

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