Two former staffers of ex-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter are expected to learn on Oct. 23 whether they will go to trial for allegedly filing fraudulent ballot petitions on behalf of the Michigan Republican’s re-election bid.
Don Yowchuang and Paul Seewald pleaded not guilty in district court today, insisting during their preliminary examination that they are innocent of the felony and misdemeanor charges against them.
They have been accused of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner and falsely signing a nominating petition as a circulator. Yowchuang is also charged with election law forgery.
Though the judge was expected to rule today whether there was enough evidence to warrant a trial for the two former staffers, he decided to take additional time to review the facts of the case.
In another twist in what might have been routine proceedings, McCotter, who has avoided public appearances since his resignation in July, took the stand to testify today. He told the court that he was repeatedly told by his staff that he had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in his re-election race.
“Every inquiry made, including my own, is that we were on target,” McCotter said, according to local media reports. “The answer was always, ‘Everything was fine.’”
McCotter dropped his re-election bid in June after filing only about a quarter of the requisite 1,000 valid signatures to get on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. His petitions were rife with errors and duplications, and the state attorney general launched an investigation soon after.
After a 10-week investigation, McCotter staffers Seewald, Yowchuang, Mary Melissa Turnbull and Lorianne O’Brady were implicated in August.
Turnbull was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner and one count of falsely signing a nominating petition. She has had her preliminary examination, and a judge presiding over her case will determine Nov. 1 whether she will stand trial.
O’Brady pleaded no contest in September to a misdemeanor charge of falsely signing a nominating petition. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.