RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Virginia GOP delegate who vowed to never vote for Donald Trump will be able to do so without facing criminal charges, after a federal judge threw out a state law binding all of Virginia's Republican National Convention delegates to Trump.
Carroll Boston "Beau" Correll Jr. wanted protection from possible prosecution if he failed to vote for Trump on the floor of the convention in Cleveland.
At issue was a Virginia law compelling all state delegates to vote for the winner of the state's presidential primary election.
On Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Payne threw out the statute, one that forced 49 Virginia delegates to vote for Trump on the 2016 Republican convention's first ballot.
Failure to do so would have risked a 12 month jail sentence and a $2,500 fine.
"Today's ruling makes it clear that the rules of the Republican Party, and not state code, govern the binding of Virginia's delegates to the RNC," said Republican Party of Virginia General Counsel Chris Martson.
"Per RNC rules, the allocation of delegates in Virginia remains the same as announced after the primary: Trump 17, Rubio 16, Cruz 8, Kasich 5, and Carson 3."
Correll's attorneys argued the delegate's First Amendment rights could be violated if RNC members could not vote for their candidate of choice. Payne dismissed the argument as weak, minutes into the seven-hour court battle.
Instead, the federal judge said Correll could be free to vote against Trump if delegates are awarded proportionally, and the statute compelling delegates to vote for the same candidate on the first ballot was invalidated.
A GOP rule says delegates must be proportionally awarded to a candidate, not winner take all, if the primary is before March 15. Virginia held its presidential primary March 1. Trump won, with 34.7 percent of the vote.
"I think that the state has no business compelling me, a member of a private organization, how to vote in that organization's affairs," Correll said during a news conference outside Richmond's federal court.
"That is a message that will be sent not just within the confines of the Eastern District of Virginia, but a permission slip that may have political ramifications.
Payne called the overturned law impossible to enforce, and said it already conflicts with the existing Republican convention rules.
Earlier this month, Trump dismissed the prospect of a "Never Trump" convention coup.
"Number one, they can't do it legally," Trump said in an interview with NBC News. "Number two, I worked for over one year, and we won all of those delegates."
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