A third staffer for ex-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter will stand trial for allegations that she filed fraudulent ballot petitions on behalf of the Michigan Republican’s now-abandoned re-election bid.
After a preliminary examination, a district court judge decided today that Mary Melissa Turnbull must face the charges at the circuit court level. An arraignment date has not been set; Turnbull is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner and one count of falsely signing a nominating petition.
Two of her former colleagues, Paul Seewald and Don Yowchuang, will be arraigned on Nov. 6. They are alleged to have sought to act in an illegal manner and falsely sign a nominating petition as a circulator for McCotter’s re-election campaign.
“State election laws apply to everyone, and public employees are no exception. We are confident in our case and prepared for trial,” Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, said at the conclusion of Seewald’s and Yowchuang’s preliminary examination.
Another one-time McCotter staffer, Lorianne O’Brady, has been sentenced to 20 days in jail or 20 days in a work program, which will be followed by an 18-month probationary period and payment of $2,625 in fines. She pleaded guilty on Sept. 18 to five misdemeanor counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as a circulator, and is the only one of the four staffers to admit wrongdoing. The remaining three maintain their innocence.
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.
He resigned from office in July and has flown beneath the radar since. He made a rare public appearance last month at the preliminary examination for Yowchuang and Seewald and testified that staffers repeatedly told him there were enough signatures to qualify him 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.’”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.