An Iraq War veteran who was seeking political office this year and his wife have been charged with allegedly forging 61 names on nomination petitions to appear on the ballot in April's primary election in Lycoming County.
Christopher Robert Bain, 41, and Misty Pilani Bain, 41, of 2335 Newberry St., were arraigned Monday before District Judge Allen P. Page III on eight counts of forgery, tampering with public records, obstruction, false swearing and violations of election law, according to an affidavit by Chief County Detective William Weber.
Sixty-one individuals whose signatures appeared on the petitions circulated by the couple confirmed to county investigators that they did not sign the petitions and their signatures were forgeries, according to the affidavit. One of the signatures that appeared on the petitions allegedly was of a county inmate incarcerated on charges of indecent assault at the time it supposedly was signed, according to the affidavit.
If convicted, Bain, a Purple Heart recipient, would be barred from holding public office for life. He and his wife also would not be allowed to vote in any election for four years, according to District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt.
Months of probing
The charges stem from an investigation into allegations Bain filed fraudulent nomination petitions in his run for a state House of Representatives seat.
To appear on the ballot, they gathered signatures "purportedly signed by 387 people," Weber said.
On Feb. 16, Misty Bain signed a petition she said she circulated. Her signature was notarized by George Heiges Jr., county director of Veterans Affairs.
Six of the pages were circulated by Bain, one by his wife and the remainder by others on behalf of the candidate, according to Weber.
That month, the state Commonwealth Court found fewer than 300 signatures - the number needed to get on the ballot - were valid. Bain was considered to be out of the running for the primary election, though he continued with an unsuccessful write-in campaign.
In March, Weber said he and county Detective Alberto Diaz met with Bain at his residence.
"He invited us in," Weber stated. "I asked him if he circulated (the petitions) ... He said he did not, that he found them stuck in his door."
Bain told the investigators he didn't know who circulated the petitions, Weber said.
When Weber asked Bain if he signed them as the "circulator," he replied that he did, and he had them "notarized."
However, when asked who he gave them to, Bain said he didn't know, the affidavit states.
"I asked if he was responsible for what's on them, and he said he 'guesses he was,' but they were left in his door and not notarized," Weber wrote.
Weber said he explained to Bain how it didn't make sense to notarize a petition that he didn't circulate. His response was "all candidates do it," the affidavit stated.
"They leave the petitions in the office for people to sign or pick up to circulate," Weber said.
Candidates do allow others to circulate petitions. However, the candidate is responsible for them and whoever circulates a petition should sign it and have it notarized, according to information Weber said he received at county Republican Party headquarters.
With detectives searching for evidence of forgeries, Bain's house was searched April 18, Weber said.
Linhardt said it is the duty of his office to protect the integrity of the election process.
"When those seeking office try to cheat the system, and where it is clear that violations of criminal and election law have taken place, I will not hesitate to prosecute, no matter who the candidate, no matter which political party," Linhardt said. "The public has the right to expect that those who seek public office will do so honestly and not in their own interests, but rather in the interests of the public they seek to serve."
Purple Heart honoree
Bain sustained war injuries when his unit was ambushed with small arms fire in Iraq in April 2004.
His injuries left him disabled and ended his 15-year military career. Bain then became involved in the Wounded Warrior Project, taking part in walks to raise awareness and support for wounded veterans of war.
In April 2007, Bain was featured on the cover of U.S. News & World Report as an Iraq War veteran who was wounded and among those reportedly not receiving proper medical attention at Walter Reed Hospital.
His first sign of interest in political office locally came in 2007 when he sought a state House of Representatives seat held then by state Rep. Steven W. Cappelli, R-Williamsport. By early 2008, he dropped out of the race for the 83rd District to support the candidacy of Jeff Stroehmann who was seeking nomination for the U.S. House in the 5th Congressional District.
In 2009, Bain ran unsuccessfully for City Council and by the end of the year announced interest in pursuing the U.S. Representative seat in the 10th Congressional District.
This past January, Bain announced his intention to seek the 83rd House District seat. As of Monday, Bain's website indicated he continued to seek a state House seat as a write-in candidate.
Bain declined to comment based on the advice of his attorney.
The couple posted bail and are waiting for a preliminary hearing to be scheduled.