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Two held in A.C. voter fraud

They were accused of filing phony absentee ballots in last week's mayoral primary.

MAYS LANDING, N.J. - David Callaway and Floyd Tally, awaiting trial in the alleged blackmailing of an Atlantic City councilman with a sex videotape, were charged unexpectedly yesterday with voter fraud in last week's Democratic mayoral primary.

The pair showed up at the Atlantic County courthouse yesterday afternoon for a hearing in the blackmail case, and broke into a run for the side door as news cameras focused on them.

Before they reached the door, more than a half-dozen uniformed and plainclothes sheriff's officers and state police blocked their path.

"Mr. Callaway, you are under arrest," one said, placing the defendant's hands behind his back and handcuffing him, as other officers did likewise with Tally a few feet away.

About 20 minutes later, the pair, hands bound, were brought into court through a prisoners' entrance.

Tally protested their treatment, claiming the prosecution of him and members of the Callaway family was motivated by racial bias.

"African Americans were targeted for an indictment or a charge," he told Superior Court Judge Albert Garofalo. "People were questioned about who they voted for. It only happened in the African American community."

Deputy Attorney General Robert Czepiel Jr. did not respond to Tally's allegation, but noted that both defendants are charged with serious crimes in two separate cases.

"This defendant," he said, referring to Callaway, "is no stranger to the criminal-justice system."

Tally has several criminal convictions, including assault and racketeering, Czepiel added.

The Attorney General's Office said Tally and Callaway each fraudulently completed more than 130 applications for messenger ballots, a type of absentee ballot designed for voters who are too sick or disabled to come to the polling place on an election day.

Callaway also is charged with delivering at least five fraudulent votes to election officials on behalf of City Councilman Marty Small's mayoral campaign, as is a third defendant, Luquay Q. Zahir, who is charged with delivering six such votes. He also says the charges are groundless.

Small was trounced in the primary by incumbent Lorenzo Langford. Small declined comment yesterday.

Callaway and Tally were ordered held with bail set at $50,000 in cash.

"I haven't seen any evidence to support the charges," said Callaway's lawyer, Steven Scheffer. "There's absolutely no evidence. There's nothing."