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Michigan Republican activists face misdemeanors for fights at GOP meetings

Doherty Hotel sign
Both incidents took place at Michigan GOP meetings at the Doherty Hotel in Clare. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Three Michigan GOP activists face misdemeanor charges for physical altercations at party gatherings
  • Kelly Sackett and Melissa Pehlis were charged after an April altercation ahead of state GOP meeting
  • James Chapman was charged for allegedly kicking the Clare County GOP chair in groin

Republican activists at the center of physical altercations during party events in Clare County now face multiple misdemeanor charges, Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis announced. 

In a Wednesday press release, Ambrozaitis said summons have been issued for Kelly Sackett, Melissa Pehlis and James Chapman for incidents that took place at the Doherty Hotel in Clare in April and July. 

Sackett, chair of the Kalamazoo County Republican Party, and Pehlis, Macomb County GOP secretary, were charged with disturbing the peace and disorderly jostling, both of which are misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. 


On April 14, the pair had a confrontation in which Sackett appeared to knock a cigarette and phone from the hand of Pehlis, who responded by thrusting an open hand at Sackett's head, according to a video recording obtained by Bridge Michigan.

The women, who represent competing factions of the Michigan GOP, appeared to be arguing over an alleged move by Sackett to purge loyalists to party chair Kristina Karamo from the Kalamazoo GOP. The incident took place the night before members of the Michigan GOP’s state central committee gathered for their first formal meeting.  

Chapman was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery and disturbing the peace, another misdemeanor, for a separate July 8 incident that resulted in Clare County Republican Party Chair Mark DeYoung getting hospitalized for suspected stress fractures to his back. 

DeYoung filed a police complaint after allegedly getting kicked in the groin by Chapman, a Wayne County activist who was one of roughly a dozen GOP delegates and activists attempting to gain access to a closed-door Michigan Republican Party meeting. 

DeYoung previously told Bridge Michigan he heard the handle rattling for several minutes and decided to open it. As he did so, he said Chapman gave him the middle finger through a small window and then immediately kicked him in the groin.

Chapman, who in 2020 was involved in a separate altercation after bringing a Barbie doll hanging by a noose to a protest at the state Capitol building and has a criminal record, claimed to Bridge at the time that he acted in self defense.

All three accused must coordinate with Clare County’s 80th District Court to schedule an arraignment date, Ambrozaitis stated in the news release. 

Both incidents were physical examples of infighting within the Michigan GOP, which has been reshaped by a grassroots movement loyal to former President Donald Trump that largely removed most "establishment" Republicans from the party. 

The Michigan GOP has faced significant financial challenges since Karamo took over the party in February as big donors abandoned the increasingly grassroots party. Matthew DePerno, a former Karamo ally who lost the state party chair race to her, is currently defending Sackett and the Kalamazoo county party in a lawsuit characterized as a proxy battle between Karamo loyalists and disgruntled critics. 

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