Criminal charges for 4 aides to former Rep. McCotter for alleged petition fraud

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Thursday announced that his office is filing criminal charges against four members of former Republican Rep. Thad McCotter's congressional staff. The accusations relate to alleged fraud surrounding nominating petitions for McCotter's 2012 re-election campaign.

Schuette's office identified the following people as those facing charges: Deputy District Director Don Yowchuang, District Director Paul Seewald, District Representative Mary Melissa Turnbull and former scheduler Lorianne O'Brady. Yowchauang, Seewald and Turnbull were given felony charges.

"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 announced, according to a press release. Schuette alleges these members of the Republican's Michigan staff were involved in "deliberate fraud involving a pattern of copying and altering petitions in order to qualify the five-term congressman for the 2012 Michigan ballot."

McCotter resigned in July citing family issues after the alleged fraud prevented him from securing the necessary signatures to appear on this year's Republican primary ballot. McCotter was not listed among those facing charges Thursday, but was publicly reprimanded by the attorney general.

"In a position of public trust, the elected official has a duty to be engaged and involved, and must 'mind the store,'" Schuette said in a statement. "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."

Schuette said McCotter's staff members "acted as if they were above the law, that the law did not apply to them," and called their actions "disgraceful."

Among the alleged acts committed, the attorney general's office says signatures collected in previous election cycles were transposed onto this cycle's petitions, fraudulent petitions were copied and submitted as originals, duplicates were knowingly submitted, dates were changed and petitions were falsely certified by people who did not circulate them.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified McCotter's party affiliation. He is a Republican.