Matthew DePerno, ex-Rep. Daire Rendon charged with vote machine tampering
- Former state Rep. Daire Rendon, attorney Matthew DePerno charged in tabulator tampering probe
- They are accused of conspiring to gain undue access to voting machines, among other things
- Special prosecutor used grand jury to seek charges, has not yet announced fate of other suspects
LANSING — Former state Rep. Daire Rendon and attorney Matthew DePerno are facing criminal charges for their alleged role in a pro-Trump plot to illegally access voting machines following the 2020 presidential election.
Rendon and DePerno were arraigned Tuesday morning and released on personal bonds after arrests by Michigan State Police, according to Oakland County Circuit Court records first reported by The Detroit News.
The charges are the first in a probe of an alleged conspiracy to access Michigan voting machines in an attempt to prove former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims the 2020 election was rigged against him.
Rendon, a Lake City Republican who left office at the end of last year, is accused of conspiring to gain “undue possession” of voting equipment as part of a conspiracy and making false statements with intent to defraud.
DePerno, the GOP nominee for Michigan attorney general in 2022, is charged with undue possession of a voting machine, conspiracy to possess voting equipment, conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to a computer system and willfully damaging a voting machine.
All charges are felonies punishable by four or five years in prison, according to special prosecutor D.J. Hilson. As with all defendants, Rendon and DePerno are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
"The charging decision was the result of a thorough decision-making-process by an independent citizen's grand jury," Hilson said in a statement.
"This citizen's grand jury carefully listened to the sworn testimony and analyzed the evidence as required by law and returned a decision to indict."
Rendon did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment on the charges. But DePerno, through Bloomfield Hills defense attorney Paul Stablein, “categorically” denied any wrongdoing.
DePerno “maintains his innocence and firmly believes that these charges are not based upon any actual truth and are motivated primarily by politics rather than evidence," Stablein said in a statement provided by DePerno.
A third suspect – metro Detroit attorney Stefanie Lambert (Junttila) – announced last week she had been informed she would be indicted this week. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were not yet public court records indicating she had been charged.
The "process is still ongoing and not over,” Hilson said, telling Bridge Michigan that charging decisions have not yet been made for other suspects in the case, including Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and Cyfir CEO Ben Cotton, who have each been involved in 2020 election probes.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, referred the tabulator tampering case to Hilson last year, citing a conflict of interest because Republicans had nominated DePerno to challenge her in the general election.
In a request for a special prosecutor, the attorney general’s office alleged DePerno, Rendon and others "orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access” to voting machines in multiple jurisdictions following the 2020 presidential election.
The suspects allegedly took five ballot tabulators from Barry, Roscommon and Missaukee counties to Oakland County. There, Michigan State Police contend the machines were "broken into" for "tests," according to court filings.
An Oakland County judge this month paved the way for a charging decision in the tabulator tampering case by granting Hilson’s request for a legal interpretation of a law banning “undue possession” of voting equipment.
The new charges are the latest in a string of criminal accusations against loyalists to Trump, who is himself battling multiple indictments related to alleged hush money payments and classified documents.
Nessel last month charged 16 "fake electors" with felony charges for signing documents falsely declaring Trump had won Michigan in 2020.
In a Tuesday statement, Michigan House Minority Leader Matt Hall called election integrity "incredibly important" and said Republicans will be watching the tabulator tampering case closely.
“Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is incredibly important, and fraud should be thoroughly investigated wherever and whenever it occurs," said Hall, R-Richland Township.
But many Americans are concerned about "politically charged prosecutions," Hall added, noting Hilson "will need to prove his allegations in court beyond a reasonable doubt."
Nessel, in a statement of her own, called the allegations against DePerno and Rendon "incredibly serious and unprecedented."
The grand jury indictments obtained by Hilson "requires a prosecutor to meet a much higher threshold than the more routine charging process in Michigan," Nessel said.
"The alleged actions by these defendants, and others, who worked to erode trust in our election system caused undeniable harm to our democracy."
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