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Michigan ‘fake elector’ judge threatens contempt for witness intimidation

54-A District Court Judge Kristen Simmons in a courtroom behind the bench
54-A District Court Judge Kristen Simmons warned individuals Tuesday that using their phones in her court to make “disparaging comments” about witnesses online is a “contemptible” offense. (Bridge photo by Jordyn Hermani)
  • Attorney Nicholas Somberg may be held in contempt of court for making social media comments about a witness in Michigan false electors case 
  • Somberg called the witness a ‘star snitch’ after the state dropped charges against him as part of a cooperation agreement
  • Somberg represents former Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock, one of 15 defendants in the case

April 30: Michigan AG backtracks ‘co-conspirator’ claim in fake electors probe
April 24: Trump an 'unindicted co-conspirator' in Michigan electors case, investigator says

LANSING — An attorney for one of Michigan’s so-called “fake electors” could be held in contempt of court for making “disparaging” online comments about a witness, 54-A District Court Judge Kristin Simmons said Tuesday. 

Though she did not name him directly, Nick Somberg — who’s representing former Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock in proceedings — told Bridge Michigan Simmons’ statement was about him.


Earlier this year Somberg reposted a photo of James Renner on the stand, referring to him as “the AG’s star snitch,” among other things.


Making derisive comments about a witness is a “contemptible issue, but it also can be … witness intimidation, which is an offense that can be charged criminally,” Simmons warned from the bench on Tuesday.

She added it was “juvenile and ridiculous” she even needed to take “time away from her judicial duties to address commentary made on Facebook.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel initially charged Renner with eight felonies alongside the other 15 Republicans in July for his alleged role in a scheme to award Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes to Trump, rather than Democrat Joe Biden, who’d won the state by over 154,000 votes. 

But the state dropped its charges against Renner after he agreed to cooperate with their investigation. He testified in the case in February. 

Somberg told Bridge he did not take the photo of Renner that he posted, as Simmons alleged. But he stood by his accompanying comments, noting Renner’s testimony and cooperation had been public knowledge. 

“It’s no secret he’s an informant or snitch or whatever — these words are interchangeable,” Somberg said. “Nothing I said is disparaging. … I’m not calling him bad words, but you can go Google the word snitch and what’s the definition? It means informant.”

Somberg and attorneys with the Department of Attorney General met in Simmons’ chambers for a private discussion ahead of Tuesday’s hearing. A left-wing account on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, had emailed Simmons with screenshots of Somberg’s comments.

As of Tuesday, Someberg said he did not know when a hearing for the possible contempt charge would take place.

In his social media posts, Somberg also called Renner “sad and dishonorable” for having “turned on his innocent friends out of fear.” Renner “should have stuck with his co-defendants,” Somberg wrote in a Facebook comment

Speaking to reporters shortly after the court broke for lunch, Somberg argued calling someone a snitch was not disparaging. 


The drama opened day five of a preliminary examination into whether 15 Republicans knowingly committed forgery when sending a slate of false electors to Congress in the hopes of overturning then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Michigan. 

Six of those individuals appeared before Simmons Tuesday, including Maddock and former Republican National Committee member Kathy Berden.

But before the hearing began, Simmons told the court that while cell phones are allowed in her courtroom, “at no time should photos be taken of a witness, nor should there be Facebook or other public posts made with commentary  about that testimony.”

“Especially disparaging comments,” she added.

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