Private eye, secret informant aided Michigan vote machine tampering probe
- Prosecutors reveal a one-time ally of Matthew DePerno and Stefanie Lambert testified against them in the run-up to criminal indictments
- A secret informant also provided information about the alleged tabulator tampering scheme, according to court filings
- Lambert alleges prosecutors 'hid’ evidence that shows ‘weaponization’ against Donald Trump allies
LANSING — A private investigator retained by Stefanie Lambert and Matt DePerno later cooperated with authorities and testified before a grand jury that indicted the pair for their role in an alleged voting machine tampering scheme, according to new court records.
Recent disclosures in the high-profile case also reveal a secret informant shared additional information with Special Prosecutor D.J. Hilson, who is fighting to keep a recording of that interview and plea deal negotiations confidential as Lambert, DePerno and former state Rep. Daire Rendon head toward trial.
Prosecutors allege the private investigator, Michael Lynch, hosted Lambert, DePerno and others in his Royal Oak condominium in 2021 as a videographer filmed testing on an illegally obtained voting machine in an attempt to prove it had been rigged against former President Donald Trump.
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Lynch, who could not be reached for comment Wednedsay, also met a Missaukee County clerk in a mall parking lot to obtain voting equipment that Rendon had allegedly persuaded her to provide, according to information previously disclosed by prosecutors.
The new records show Lynch was cooperating with investigators as early as April 2022, when he met with a battery of officials from the Department of Attorney General and state police — who led the probe until it was turned over to the special prosecutor in August of that year.
The existence of the Lynch interview – but not its contents – was first made public by Lambert, who argued in a recent court filing that the prosecutor, Hilson, “hid” evidence that could help her defense, including a discussion between investigators who were interviewing Lynch that was included in a recording provided to the defense but not a written transcript of the meeting.
The audio recording, according to Lambert's attorney, suggests Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel's office was "forum shopping" to find a location to press charges where a jury would be more willing to convict, rather than in the rural Michigan communities where the tabulators were actually taken from.
In the recording, assistant attorney general Danielle Hagaman-Clark told colleagues she thinks Roscommon County Prosecutor Mary Beebe is "great" but that she would not want to have to pick a jury "up there on this kind of crap,” according to allegations in a court filing by Lambert’s attorneys.
It might be easier to “charge them all with some kind of conspiracy … down here,” Hagaman-Clark said on the recording, according to Lambert’s attorneys, who did not indicate where the interview with Lynch occurred.
The comments are evidence of “Nessel’s weaponization of her department’s investigation and prosecution of those she and her investigators have continued to wrongfully target after the November 2020 election,” defense attorney Michael J. Smith argued in a court brief.
Hilson took over the case in September 2022 after Nessel cited a conflict of interest because DePerno was running against her as the Republican nominee for attorney general. Charges were ultimately filed in Oakland County, where Hilson says five tabulators from various parts of the state were taken for testing as part of a "conspiracy" spanning multiple jurisdictions.
In recent court filings, the special prosecutor said he turned over “thousands of pages” of documents, hours of recorded interviews and all other “tangible evidence” to defense attorneys, as required, including a recording of the Hagaman-Clark comments Lambert alleges he hid.
But Hilson also revealed that he made at least two other recordings that he does not want to turn over to the defense, including an interview with Lynch and special agent Michael Steckel before Hilson presented his case to the secret grand jury that indicted DePerno, Lambert and Rendon.
Hilson used that interview “to make charging decisions and to help him prepare and develop questions for the witness when they testified,” according to a filing by Hilson's chief assistant prosecuting attorney Timothy Maat.
Separately, on March 14, 2023, Hilson interviewed a secret informant who agreed to provide him information upon a pledge of confidentiality, according to the prosecutor’s office.
That informant, described in court records as a “co-conspirator” and “private citizen not involved in law enforcement,” spoke with Hilson for nearly two hours and shared information about how the voting tabulators were obtained, who acquired them and how they were handled by suspects, “including the dismantling and accessing of the interior components by breaking seals on a machine,” according to a court filing.
Both recordings are a “work product” that Hilson should not have to provide to the defense, his office argued, disclosing that the interview with the secret informant included discussions of a potential plea deal or prosecutorial immunity in exchange for cooperation.
Similar offers were made to “many suspects” in the case, Maat wrote. “The proffer provided by the informant… helped result in several suspects not being charged or indicted in this case.”
Recent filings show Hilson has provided Lambert with several recorded statements by initial suspects in the case who were not indicted, including CyFIR founder Ben Cotton, Michigan attorney Ann Howard and Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who had enlisted Lynch to grill local clerks as part of his own failed investigation into the 2020 presidential election.
Other initial suspects who were not indicted include Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, former National Security Agency official James Penrose and self-described tech expert Jeffrey Lenberg, who were allegedly part of the "forensic" team that broke into the Michigan tabulators.
Lambert, an attorney herself who also uses the last name Junttila, has filed multiple motions in the case against her, including attempts to disqualify Hilson and dismiss the indictment that were rejected last month by Oakland County Circuit Judge Jeffery Matis.
A combined pre-trial hearing in the criminal cases against Lambert, DePerno and Rendon is currently scheduled for Nov. 30.
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