Mich. AG's investigation results in charges against McCotter staffers

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 14, 2012, 2:30pm



DETROIT (Legal Newsline) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced last week that four members of former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's staff will face criminal charges as the result of an investigation into allegations of election fraud.

McCotter, a five-term Republican, had represented residents of Michigan's Oakland and Wayne counties since 2003.

In July, he announced his immediate resignation from Congress.

The month before, Schuette said his office's Criminal Division would be looking into allegations related to the petitions filed in McCotter's candidacy for the state's 11th Congressional District.

McCotter had submitted nominating petitions to the Secretary of State's Office in June. A formal review by the office's Bureau of Elections revealed various discrepancies in the petition filing, including duplicate signatures and the appearance of altered petitions.

The attorney general -- also a Republican -- said he decided to investigate only after a formal referral from the Bureau of Elections.

On Thursday, Schuette alleged that members of McCotter's Michigan staff were involved in a "deliberate fraud" involving a pattern of copying and altering petitions in order to qualify the congressman for this year's state ballot.

McCotter staffers Don Yowchuang, Paul Seewald and Mary Melissa Turnbull and former staffer Lorianne O'Brady each face various criminal charges for their roles in the election petition fraud.

The attorney general's investigation lasted 10 weeks; it included interviewing 75 witnesses, procuring sworn statements from nine people and reviewing thousands of records, including 136 nominating petitions filed with the Secretary of State.

"As your attorney general, I have a duty to enforce the law and ensure public integrity," Schuette said in a statement. "In this case, the process of obtaining signatures and filing petitions to participate in the democratic process was perverted.

"This was not simply keystone cops run amok -- serious criminal acts were committed, and following a thorough and complete investigation, felony charges have been filed."

Schuette continued, "In a position of public trust, the elected official has a duty to be engaged and involved, and must 'mind the store.' Here, former Congressman McCotter was asleep at the switch. He failed to mind the store and appears to have provided no supervision whatsoever to his staff members."

The attorney general said the McCotter staffers acted as if they were "above the law."

"They are sadly mistaken. Election fraud will not be tolerated and this brazen attitude of indifference by public servants is disgraceful," Schuette said.

Schuette last week revealed examples of petitions that were allegedly manufactured electronically by transposing signatures collected in previous election years on to 2012 nominating petitions.

In several cases, the fraudulent petitions were also copied and submitted to the Secretary of State as originals, he said.

Schuette explained that everything on the petition forms appear to be exactly the same except for the dates, which appear altered.

The attorney general's investigation also revealed evidence that duplicate petitions were knowingly submitted to pad signature numbers and that multiple petitions were falsely certified by defendants who did not actually circulate them.

"If the defendants in this case had put the same amount of energy into collecting signatures as they did executing this elaborate scheme to manufacture fraudulent petitions, the outcome could have been different," Schuette said.

"Unfortunately, they chose to go down the road of felony election fraud, complete with cut and paste jobs that would make an elementary art teacher cringe. Now they will face the consequences of their actions."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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