Michigan troopers execute warrant on Lee Chatfield's brother as part of probe
LANSING — Court records indicate Michigan State Police executed a search warrant last week against the brother of embattled former House Speaker Lee Chatfield.
The existence of a search came to light after Aaron Chatfield filed a motion in 30th Circuit Court for Ingham County claiming the search warrant was unconstitutional and allowed “the Michigan State Police to embark on an investigative fishing expedition.”
Michael Nichols, an attorney representing Aaron Chatfield, told Bridge Michigan early Thursday that the Michigan State Police asked his client for the password of his iPhone when executing the warrant.
“We think that the search warrant is definitely over broad and without probable cause,” Nichols wrote in an email.
A hearing on Aaron Chatfield’s request had been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday, but was canceled later Thursday.
"We resolved it. The terms need to stay between the lawyers for now. Therefore I dismissed the Complaint,” Nichols wrote in an email later Thursday to Bridge Michigan.
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The Detroit News was first to report on the warrant, which marks at least the second time in one week that troopers searched the property of those with close ties to former House Speaker Lee Chatfield.
As Bridge Michigan has reported, Lee Chatfield faces allegations that he sexually abused Aaron Chatfield’s wife, Rebekah, beginning when she was a 15 or 16-year-old student at a northern Michigan Christian school run by Chatfield’s father, Rusty. Lee Chatfield was a teacher at the school at that time.
Through a lawyer, Lee Chatfield, who is married, has acknowledged multiple affairs, including with Rebekah Chatfield, but asserted that his relations with Rebekah were consensual and took place when they were both adults. He left office because of term limits in 2020.
Nichols, Aaron Chatfield’s attorney, told Bridge he is attempting to protect his client's privacy during a difficult time in his life.
Nichols also indicated a possible shift in his client's position since Aaron Chatfield spoke directly with Bridge. Aaron said in December he is confident his wife is telling the truth about being manipulated into being victimized by sexual assaults as a teen and is standing by a woman he believed is “the most amazing person.”
On Thursday, Nichols called Rebekah "unfaithful" to Aaron in the course of challenging the search warrant.
“We are trying to protect Aaron from an unwarranted invasion of his privacy that is counterproductive to Aaron’s efforts to get through this period in his life," Nichols said. "He’s learned that his wife was unfaithful to him for years, that his big-brother, who was his idol, betrayed him and now he’s got to get through whatever changes are coming his way. We think that the search warrant is definitely overbroad and without probable cause. Even though we have not seen the affidavit from law enforcement – we cannot imagine what evidence of crimes about Lee’s finances may be on that phone.”
In addition to the sex abuse allegations, Chatfield’s finances also are under scrutiny. He made $95,985 as House speaker from 2019 to 2021 and was “gone all the time” on trips, Aaron Chatfield told Bridge in December.
According to campaign finance filings, from 2018 through 2020, Aaron Chatfield received $33,747, while another brother, Paul Chatfield, was paid $28,596 from their brother’s campaign and three leadership PACs.
This week, troopers also executed a search warrant against the Bath home of Anne and Rob Minard. They were two of Lee Chatfield’s most senior staffers when he was in the House.
While serving in the House as director of external affairs, Anne Minard was also a board member for the Peninsula Fund, a nonprofit tied to Chatfield, according to IRS records. During this time Rob Minard was serving as Chatfield’s chief of staff.
A Bridge Michigan investigation with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network found that the Peninsula Fund spent nearly a half million dollars on travel and food in 2020 alone.
Because the IRS rules don’t require it to disclose donors or explain how the money was spent, much is unknown on how that money was spent.
While both worked full-time in the Legislature, Rob and Anne Minard also owned Victor Strategies, a consulting firm. Chatfield’s leadership PACs, his campaign and a connected super PAC paid the Minards about $493,000 in a three-year period from 2018 through 2020.
In total, more than $1.1 million was paid to Victor Strategies from Republican campaigns and PACs while at least one of the Minards was also paid a legislative salary.
Anne Minard is still employed in the House as an event and affairs coordinator, according to a House spokesperson.
Mary Chartier, Lee Chatfield’s attorney, didn’t immediately return a request for comment. However, in a previous statement, she said Lee Chatfield believes all of his finances were handled properly.
“In the end, all that an investigation will reveal is that Republicans and Democrats alike use these accounts in the same fashion and the law was followed,” Chartier said.
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office, which is working with state police on the investigation of Lee Chatfield, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Editor's note: This story and headline were updated at 5:50 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, to reflect that Aaron Chatfield is no longer contesting the search warrant, a development that occurred after the original story was published.
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