KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – She’s withstood an attempt to get her name removed from the First Congressional District Republican Primary ballot. Now Nichole Williams may face a perjury charge — she says for inadvertently signing election filing paperwork that included her former address.
Sullivan County’s online court record system shows an open “State of Tennessee vs Nichole E Williams” case in Judge James Goodwin’s court with a June 4 filing date. Charges haven’t been filed but are listed as perjury with Tennessee Code Annotated 39-16-702 as the applicable code.
Second Judicial District District Attorney Barry Staubus said his office submitted a document known as an “information” to Goodwin’s criminal court June 3. In Williams’ case, the act would be a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.
An information is essentially a written accusation of crime presented by a public official and provides an easier path to settling a charge without going to a grand jury.
That document reads that Staubus, “upon his information charges and says” that on Feb. 13, Williams “did unlawfully, and with the intent to deceive,” make a false statement on her nominating petition. The information notes that the nominating petition stated on its face that it was made under penalty of perjury, and it lists the false residential address as the source of the perjury.
Williams didn’t dispute the basic facts in a phone interview. She did wonder why a perjury charge was being considered for what she said was an honest mistake – and one she said she tried to correct once she realized what she had done.
“When I first picked up my petition, I hadn’t updated my driver’s license,” Williams said. “The election commissioner sat me down with this whole big packet of information and I wasn’t paying real close attention.”
She said parts of the petition were pre-printed with her former address of 814 Birch Street in Kingsport, which, like her current address of 188 Bancroft Chapel Road, Kingsport, is in the First District.
“I was super excited, I was learning about poll watchers and all the other things that go along with running for office,” Williams said.
She said upon realizing the mistake, she returned to the election commission and picked up a second petition. “I went and fixed it as soon as I realized what I had done,” she said. The Tennessee Secretary of State Division of Elections web page, though, shows her address as 814 Birch Street under the list of qualified candidates.
In late April or early May, Williams said, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) officer paid her a visit. “He was basically like, ‘can you tell me what happened here,'” she said.
“He took down what I said and gave it to the DA.”
Williams said she suspects political motives.
“Specifically, I guess to the letter of the law I would be found guilty,” she said. “This is so petty. I realize I made a mistake but I tried to fix it.”
In April, Williams’ candidacy was challenged by two people who suggested she did not meet the standards necessary to be considered a bona fide Republican, including her voting history. State GOP Chairman Scott Golden opted to allow Williams to remain on the ballot.
Staubus said the case could be resolved this week.