Schuette appeals decision in McCotter petition scandal

Attorney General Schuette
A.G. Appeals Dismissal of Felony Conspiracy Charges Against Fraudulent Petition Circulators Don Yowchuang and Paul Seewald

Attorney General Bill Schuette today filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals challenging the dismissal of felony conspiracy charges previously leveled against two former congressional staff members for their involvement in former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s petition scandal.

“Michigan citizens deserve and expect the highest standard of public integrity,” said Schuette. “The message here is crystal clear?if you break the law, there are consequences.  No one is above the law.  We will continue to prosecute this disgraceful violation of the public trust.”

On January 18, 2013, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Margie Braxton dismissed the charge of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner, a five year felony filed against both defendants.  The Attorney General’s office opposed the dismissal in court. Today Schuette’s office filed a claim of appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Don Yowchuang, 33, of Farmington Hills, who worked as Deputy District Director for the former congressman, pleaded no contest on November 27, 2012 in Wayne County’s 3rd Circuit Court before Judge Braxton to ten counts of forgery, a five year felony, and six counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor.  Yowchang was sentenced by Judge Braxton on January 18, 2013 to the following: three years’ probation, and if he violates probation the last year must be served in a county jail or prison; 200 hours of community service; repay all court costs and fees; and, he is required to report any contact with police or loss of employment to his assigned probation officer.

Paul Seewald, 47, of Livonia, who worked as District Director for the former congressman, pleaded guilty on November 27, 2012 in Wayne County’s 3rd Circuit Court before Judge Braxton to nine counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail. Seewald was sentenced by Judge Braxton on January 18, 2013 to the following: two years’ probation; 100 hours of community service; repay all court costs and fees; and, he is required to report any contact with police or loss of employment to his assigned probation officer.

On August 9, 2012, Schuette announced the results 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.  At that announcement Schuette explained the former congressman was “asleep at the switch” and that four staff members were to face criminal charges.

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 five-term congressman for the 2012 Michigan ballot.

On September 18, 2012, Lorianne O’Brady, 52, of Livonia, who worked as a scheduler to the former congressman, pleaded no contest in Wayne County’s 16th District Court before Judge Kathleen J. McCann to five counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor.  She was sentenced to 20 days in jail or 20 days in a work program.  Following that sentence, she will serve 18 months’ probation, with the first 12 months as reporting probation.  O’Brady was also ordered to pay $2,625 in fines and court costs.

The remaining member of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s Congressional staff who faces criminal charges for her alleged role in the scandal is:

Mary Melissa Turnbull, District Representative, 58, of Howell  – Turnbull was bound over for trial in Oakland County Circuit court where she faces two charges:

o   One count of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner, a five-year felony; and,

o   One count of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a 93-day misdemeanor.

Turnbull is next due in court for a Final Conference before Judge Leo Bowman on April 16, 2013.  Her trial will begin June 3, 2013.

Since being created in February, 2011 by Attorney General Schuette, the Public Integrity Unit has filed 225 charges against 40 defendants in various cases of corruption in state and local government.  To date, the unit has secured convictions against 14 elected officials and public employees and continues to pursue convictions of 22 others.

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