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Oprison Cleared of Fraud

Prosecutor declines to continue with election fraud investigation of Del. Joe May's former opponent.

A special prosecutor has determined that Chris Oprison, former candidate for the 33rd District House of Representatives seat, did not commit election fraud in the June 14 primary.

Suzanne Perka, special prosecutor and Clarke County Commonwealth's Attorney, wrote in a July 15 decision that "no criminal law violations or unlawful conduct took place for which any prosecution or further investigation is warranted."

In his ultimately successful race against political newcomer Oprison, Del. Joe May (R) had alleged that Oprison had turned in signatures collected by an inappropriate person: Oprison's campaign manager, Andrew Tyrrell.

Tyrrell, a student at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, was not registered to vote in the district at the time he collected the signatures required to get Oprison on the ballot. He still maintained his Florida drivers' license at the time.

Signatures must be collected by a registered or eligible voter in the district. May's camp argued, without success, that Tyrrell was not eligible.

MAY DID succeed, however, in winning re-election.

May defeated Oprison with 60 percent of the vote — but with relatively low turnout at less than 10 percent, only 975 votes separated the two.

Oprison, a conservative Republican and attorney, was vindicated by the special prosecutor's decision, but believed May's allegations distracted voters from the real issues of the race.

"It shows exactly what I said all along. I did the right thing. We went by the book," Oprison said. "This was an effort by Joe to question our integrity and will to follow the law."

Oprison added that he's considering a second run for May's seat in 2007, even in the face of what turned out to be a personal, intense first race.

"[May] used every trick in his bag," he said. "It worked this time for him. Next time, in two years, it's not going to work. People know who I am now."

May, meanwhile, plans to take up the issue with the House of Delegates' Privileges and Elections Committee.

Dave Juday, May's campaign manager, warned that Oprison's vindication may not be complete.

"Just because the state trooper lets you off with a warning doesn't mean you weren't speeding," Juday said.