Madison Rep. David Cole resigned his seat in the Alabama House on Thursday and, as part of a plea deal, filed court documents indicating his intent to plead guilty to a felony voter fraud charge. Under the proposed plea deal, Cole will serve 60 days in jail and a three-year probation.
Cole submitted his resignation letter, which simply announced his “regretful” intention to resign as District 10 representative, to House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter on Tuesday afternoon.
That resignation was part of the plea deal Cole entered into with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. In addition, Cole agreed to a three-year prison sentence, which will be split to allow him to serve 60 days in the Madison County Jail and serve the remainder of the three years on unsupervised release.
Cole must also repay the salary he earned as a state representative and cover any additional court costs or fees imposed by the court.
The plea documents also provide a detailed accounting of Cole’s actions that led to his arrest and the charges he faced. Without the plea deal, Cole could have been facing multiple felony counts for voter fraud.
According to the documents, which mirror reporting from APR first published last October, Cole was desperate to find a residence within House District 10 after 2020 redistricting shifted the district lines out of Cole’s neighborhood, leaving his family home in District 4. District 4 is represented by Parker Moore, who had no intention of resigning. District 10 had been represented by Mike Ball, who was retiring.
According to the court filing, Cole approached a family friend, who is identified in the filing only as “H.S.,” but who APR reported earlier was Himbert Sinopoli, and asked to lease space just in case he couldn’t locate a residence prior to the filing deadline. Sinopoli agreed and Cole rented a “5×5 area” in the Sinopoli home for $5 per month.
Cole told Sinopoli that his family might not move into the house, according to the filing, and that it would likely be just him, if it came to that. Cole never moved in, and in fact visited the home just twice, never moving beyond the foyer near the entrance.
But Cole did, on Nov. 8, 2021, just a day prior to the filing deadline, complete an online voter registration form stating his new address was the Sinopoli home. He used that address to vote absentee in the primary, and then voted in person at a District 10 polling location in a runoff election in June 2022.
According to the filing, in response to questions from (APR), Cole provided his consultant, David Driscoll, with an “altered copy” of the original lease he held with Sinopoli. The altered lease removed language referring to a “5×5 area” and instead made it seem as if Cole was leasing the entire home. Driscoll was unaware of the alterations, and he told APR at the time that he was forwarding on the lease provided to him by Cole.
Cole also told “a member of the Republican Party Steering Committee” that he was living in the Sinopoli home, when the committee member questioned Cole about his residency in response to a challenge filed by Anson Knowles, who challenged Cole in the GOP primary. Cole told the committee member that he had sold his home in House District 4 and was living in the Sinopoli home because his purchase of a different home had fallen through.
Cole used the address of an apartment he leased in District 10 to vote in the Nov. 2022 general election. The plea agreement states that, too, was fraudulent because Cole later certified on Dec. 1, 2022, on a property tax document, that his District 4 home was his primary residence.