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Candidates maintain innocence

Student body presidential candidates participated in what seemed like a game of Clue on Monday night. Candidates Mike Berman and Omar Khan protested their disqualifications from the race, but who will be named winner still remains a mystery.

The Student Government Supreme Court heard two separate cases in an attempt to decide as to whether the disqualifications are valid.

Both tickets were eliminated from the race Thursday for immediate 10-point violations of the Election Rules Committees procedures.

Berman was eliminated because a campaign worker allegedly e-mailed an abusive letter to the Khan ticket. Khan was disqualified for a allegedly having a friend campaign for him during a scheduled class.

In ERC v. Khan/Morris, Yolanda Best, director of the ERC, said Khan is responsible for the actions of student Gina Zitman, who distributed flyers for the campaign during class though she is not a campaign worker.

This, Best said, is a 10-point violation according to rule 10.2.8, which states a violation is given with “any form of active campaigning in a room where scheduled class is taking place.”

Zitman allegedly distributed the flyers during a class break, according to the Khan campaign.

Best added that this provides sufficient evidence against Khan/Morris because it is similar to a previous case in 1999, when presidential candidate Tyvi Small distributed flyers during class.

However, Aneesh Karve, who represented Khan, said Khan did not violate ERC rules according to the tense of the rules.

“The issue is the wording, which clearly shows (the actions) didn’t take place during class,” Karve said.

Karve added that Zitman, who is a friend of Khan’s, solicited Khan for the flyers. Karve said Khan instructed Zitman to only distribute flyers to friends, and Zitman did not follow those instructions.

“My client is completely free of any wrongdoing in Ms. Zitman’s actions,” Karve said.

Best said, however, that Zitman’s distribution of flyers is still a violation, even though they were distributed during a class break. Best added that the flyers were not distributed to those she personally knew, and therefore pressured others to vote for the Khan/Morris ticket.

In the case of ERC v. Berman/Bostick, Berman defended against an alleged e-mail that was sent to his opponent.

Best said the alleged e-mail was enough evidence to disqualify the ticket, though she had not interviewed the alleged e-mail account’s owner.

Best said the e-mail, which stated “your going to lose ahole (sic)” and was allegedly sent from campaign worker Sean Condella, gives a 10-point violation of 10.2.6 for “use of extortion of any kind, or use of physical/mental intimidation or abuse.”

Best said she had only a couple of hours to make the decision of whether to disqualify Berman, who is the SG Senate president, and the evidence of the e-mail was strong enough at that point.

Best said she continued to investigate the matter afterward. She also said she wouldn’t have changed her mind because the testimony Condella gave her concerning his whereabouts at the time the e-mail was sent conflicted with other reports.

“According to Condella’s testimony, the ERC can’t determine where he was,” Best said.

In addition, Best said Condella’s claim that someone accessed his e-mail is not an excuse. She said the e-mail account holder, according to Yahoo! is fully responsible for any breach of security.

Condella said about 30 to 40 people have a password to his e-mail account so fraternity members can access a listserv.

Condella claimed that he was at a meeting during the time the e-mails were sent.

Berman cited U.S. Supreme Court cases involving the First Amendment, saying that though some may find language offensive, his case, too, is a matter of free speech.

“What is offensive to one person may not be to another,” Berman said. “If some disagree with their opinion, that’s their right. Does the ERC overrule our state constitution? I don’t think so.”

Dustin Sachs, chief justice for the SG Supreme Court, said the justices determination as to whether the disqualifications are valid will be made no sooner than 12 hours and no later than 48 hours from the time of the meeting.

In the case that both candidates remain disqualified, Sachs said he could not comment on the procedures that would take place.

“Those are all presumptions at this point and would affect the outcome of the case,” Sachs said.

The ERC will not release the election results until after the SG court’s decision is made, claiming that the knowledge would cause the justices to be biased.

Assistant attorney Lynn Cash said in a letter of reason that the results were held because “it is the opinion of this office that the Election Rules Committee has the discretion under the Student Government statutes to deny the release of unofficial election results to ensure the integrity of the election and the decision of the Student Supreme Court.”