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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Cleared in CAA Case

Board members ruled that they could not prove the guilt of senior Liz Gardner and junior B.J. Talley beyond a reasonable doubt, although members say evidence strongly implicates the two students.

Gardner and Talley were accused of crafting a forged e-mail that was submitted as evidence in the Feb. 15 disqualification hearing, in which CAA presidential candidate Michael Songer tried to have CAA President Reid Chaney disqualified for misconduct.

Gardner, who saw the decision as a victory, worked as a staff member in Songer's campaign, and Talley served as his campaign manager.

"The board found clear and convincing evidence linking Gardner and Talley to the forgery but decided not to rule beyond a reasonable doubt," wrote Bryan Crumpler, who conducted the investigation with former Board of Elections Vice Chairman Fred Hill.

In a six-page report, Crumpler detailed the evidence produced from interviews and recovered computer files, with consultation from Academic Technology & Networks officials.

The forgery linked Chaney's campaign to an e-mail sent by UNC alumnus and former Carolina Fever President Davin McGinnis that characterized Songer as dishonest and deceptive. Under elections laws, any slanderous actions by a campaign could be considered grounds for disqualification.

Gardner said she is pleased with the board's decision, although she is disappointed with the explanation. "It's like their decision and their report have two completely different focuses," she said. "The decision focuses on our innocence, but the report focuses on the allegations."

But Gardner said she is glad to have the situation resolved. "I'm relieved it ends in the clearing of my name," she said.

Talley said the board made the right decision. "The elections board didn't take any action against me and neither did the Honor Court," he said.

Talley said the language of the report was harsh but generally fair. "The crux of the decision ... shows what I have maintained the whole time -- that I didn't do this, and I wasn't involved."

Hill originally opened the investigations to determine the e-mail's origin, and board members said they persisted in the matter to bring closure to the issue with no expectations of taking punitive action against either campaign.

But the board ruled that Songer's campaign is responsible for submitting falsified evidence -- even if workers did not create the e-mail -- and must complete a public apology to members of Chaney's campaign framed by the forged e-mail.

Crumpler said the board didn't want to give Gardner and Talley the impression they were guilty until proven innocent. He said, "We were just trying to lay out all the evidence we had and point out contradictions as they were."

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