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Michigan State Police hand off Lee Chatfield probe to Attorney General

Lee Chatfield’s sister-in-law has accused him of sexually assaulting her beginning when she was a teenage student at the private Christian school where he taught. (Bridge file photo)
  • State Police have turned over its criminal probe of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield to Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office
  • The probe stems from allegations that Chatfield sexual assaulted his sister-in-law beginning when she was teen student where he taught 
  • Ethics reforms on political spending linked to the Chatfield scandal still await lawmakers’ votes

Michigan State Police have turned over its criminal probe of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield to Attorney General Dana Nessel, but a police spokesperson cautioned that the handoff doesn’t mean the investigation has concluded.

State Police have spent months investigating sexual assault allegations against Chatfield and looking into his financial dealings while in office. Lt. Derrick Carroll confirmed the transfer to Bridge Michigan Thursday, saying “we are no longer investigating this matter.” 

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Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Nessel, declined to comment on the handoff but said Friday that the Chatfield probe “is still an open and ongoing investigation.”

The handoff, first reported by the Detroit News, marks a new stage in an investigation launched after Chatfield’s sister-in-law, 27-year-old Rebekah Chatfield, came forward with allegations that the 34-year-old former House Speaker sexually assaulted her for more than a decade beginning when she was a teenage congregant and student at the Burt Lake church and private school where he taught and coached.

Rebekah Chatfield told Bridge Michigan as well as police last December that Lee Chatfield took advantage of his influence at the church and school and her vulnerable upbringing to groom and repeatedly assault her starting when she was a 15- or 16-year-old student at Northern Michigan Christian Academy, run by Lee’s father, Rusty Chatfield. Rebekah later went on to marry Lee's younger brother, Aaron, who attended the school with her. Aaron Chatfield described to Bridge as well his brother’s lavish spending while in office, which also caught investigators’ attention.  

Lee Chatfield, who is married, has denied sexually assaulting Rebekah Chatfield, though he acknowledged sexual relationships with her and others, which he said were consensual. He also denied any financial improprieties.  

A lawyer for Rebekah Chatfield did not return calls for comment. 

The police investigation sparked by sexual assault allegations later expanded to include Chatfield's financial dealings while in office, which had long raised eyebrows in Lansing. As Bridge and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network reported, a single nonprofit tied to Chatfield, the Peninsula Fund, spent nearly half-a-million dollars on travel and food in 2020 alone.

Aaron Chatfield told Bridge that his older brother was “gone all the time” on trips, frequently tapping Aaron to drive him to strip clubs and meetups with women.

The police investigation into the sexual and financial allegations has involved multiple searches of homes and workplaces tied to Chatfield and those in his orbit. Police search targets included Chatfield’s home, the private school where he formerly worked, Aaron Chatfield’s cell phone and the Bath Township home of two close Chatfield political associates, Anne and Rob Minard.

Carroll, the state police spokesperson, would not say what led to the agency’s August handoff of the investigation to Nessel’s office, nor comment on any findings. He directed further questions to Nessel’s office, which declined comment. 

In a statement to Bridge, Chatfield lawyer Mary Chartier called the police handoff “routine and expected” while maintaining that Chatfield “vehemently denies” allegations of assault and financial misdeeds.

Michigan lawmakers are still debating a slew of proposed lobbying and ethics reforms put forward in response to the Chatfield scandal.

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