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A.G. Schuette Charges Four in Connection with McCotter Election Fraud

Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced four congressional staff members will face criminal charges as the result of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit into the alleged fraud surrounding nominating petitions filed in May 2012 on behalf of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.

The Attorney General’s investigation lasted ten 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,” said Schuette. “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 alleges 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 five term congressman for the 2012 Michigan 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.

“In a position of public trust, the elected official has a duty to be engaged and involved, and must ‘mind the store,’” said Schuette. “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.

“As a result, the McCotter crew acted as if they were above the law, that the law did not apply to them. They are sadly mistaken. Election fraud will not be tolerated and this brazen attitude of indifference by public servants is disgraceful.”

Schuette today 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. Schuette indicated that everything on the petition forms appear to be exactly the same except for the dates, which appear altered. Schuette’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. 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,” said Schuette.

The following charges have been filed against members of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s Congressional Staff:

Don Yowchuang, Deputy District Director, 33, of Farmington Hills – 17 charges filed in Livonia’s 16th District Court:

  • Ten counts of Election Law Forgery, a five-year felony;
  • One count of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner, a five-year felony; and,
  • Six counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

Paul Seewald, District Director, 47, of Livonia – Ten charges filed in Livonia’s 16th District Court:

  • One count of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner, a five-year felony; and,
  • Nine counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

Mary Melissa Turnbull, District Representative, 58, of Howell – Two charges filed in Troy’s 52-4 District Court:

  • One count of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner, a five-year felony; and,
  • One count of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

Lorianne O’Brady, Former Scheduler (Employed by McCotter at the time of the Alleged Crimes), 52, of Livonia – Five Charges filed in Livonia’s 16th District Court:

  • Five counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail.

Since being created in February 2011 by Attorney General Schuette, the Public Integrity Unit has filed 206 charges against 35 defendants in various cases of corruption in state and local government. To date the unit has secured convictions against 13 elected officials and public employees and continues to pursue convictions of 19 others.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 

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