Nine fake electors arraigned in Michigan: What to know about the case
- All 16 charged in false electors case have pleaded not guilty or asked the court to do so on their behalf
- Preliminary examinations could begin as early as this month, although some have been scheduled for October
- Accused are facing felony charges for filing paperwork falsely claiming Trump won Michigan in 2020
Was a December 2020 meeting to sign paperwork awarding Michigan’s 2020 presidential electoral votes to former President Donald Trump despite now-President Joe Biden’s win a threat to democracy?
Or was it simply an exercise in political free speech?
That’s what courts are set to determine now that 16 “false electors” facing felonies for falsely asserting Trump won Michigan’s electoral votes in the 2020 election have made their first court appearances.
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Kathy Berden, Michigan’s Republican national committeewoman, and eight co-defendants either entered not guilty pleas or stood mute, allowing the court to enter not guilty pleas on their behalf, during Thursday arraignments in Lansing’s 54-A District Court.
Seven others, including former Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock, Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot and Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood, already entered not guilty pleas in recent weeks.
Court records indicate that preliminary examinations for some of those facing charges could begin later this month. Cases against Maddock and co-defendant Mari-Ann Henry, however, were delayed until Oct. 12.
Each defendant faces eight felony counts including ranging from conspiracy and election law forgery to forgery and uttering and publishing.
Most of the charges are punishable by up to 14 years in prison, while others are five-year felonies.
What they’re facing
The defendants are accused of falsely filling out paperwork that asserted Trump won Michigan, even though Biden won by 154,188 votes.
The document purported to be an official certificate awarding the state’s presidential electors to Trump in what Michigan’s Democratic attorney general, Dana Nessel, alleged was a plot to keep him in the White House.
In a statement announcing the charges, Nessel said their actions “undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan.”
What defendants, observers are saying
The 16 people who signed onto the document range from high-profile party activists to a local mayor, a clerk, grassroots organizer and a dairy farmer.
They are a mostly older group — two are in their 80s, six others in their 70s. Their public statements since their names were first attached to the election scheme are as varied as their backgrounds. Some offered defiant declarations that they have done no wrong. Others said they had little to no idea what they were signing.
In an interview with conservative talk show host Steve Gruber, Maddock she has done nothing wrong, arguing the Dec. 14, 2020, meeting of electors was never a secret, noting, “we showed up when we were asked to and signed the paperwork.”
She accused Nessel of working with federal investigators to dismantle Trump’s current presidential campaign by “prosecuting and jailing all of his top leaders.”
The 16 Trump electors facing felony charges
- Kathy Berden, 70, of Snover
- William (Hank) Choate, 72, of Cement City
- Amy Facchinello, 55, of Grand Blanc
- Clifford Frost, 75, of Warren
- Stanley Grot, 71, of Shelby Township
- John Haggard, 82, of Charlevoix
- Mari-Ann Henry, 65, of Brighton
- Timothy King, 56, of Ypsilanti
- Michele Lundgren, 73, of Detroit
- Meshawn Maddock, 55, of Milford
- James Renner, 76, of Lansing
- Mayra Rodriguez, 64, of Grosse Pointe Farms
- Rose Rook, 81, of Paw Paw
- Marian Sheridan, 69, of West Bloomfield
- Ken Thompson, 68, of Orleans
- Kent Vanderwood, 69, of Wyoming
"The Democrats know that they cannot beat Trump in 2024, so they have to use lawfare," she said in the interview.
Democratic officials, including Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes, applauded Nessel for charging those involved in efforts to undermine Michigan election results.
Where things stand
All defendants’ cases are currently pending in Lansing’s 54-A District Court.
At this stage, the defendants are at the very beginning of court proceedings. The next key step will be preliminary examinations, where the Attorney General’s office will present the charges to the judge and make a case for probable cause that the defendants took part in the actions they’ve been accused of.
If the district court judge determines probable cause exists, the cases will be bound over to circuit court for trial proceedings.
Currently, each defendant’s case is being adjudicated separately, although prosecutors have suggested some of the 16 cases could be consolidated down the line.
The defendants have been released on $1,000 bonds, cannot travel out of state without permission from the court and cannot possess firearms, per court records.
Some of those charged have already been approved for out-of-state trips, and Berden’s attorney told the court Thursday that she is currently residing in Tennessee.
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