November 27, 2012
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced two former congressional staff members have entered pleas to all but one of the criminal charges they faced concerning their involvement in former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter's petition scandal. No plea or sentencing agreement was offered.
"As Attorney General, I have a responsibility to enforce the law and ensure public integrity," said Schuette. "After a thorough investigation, my office determined that criminal acts were committed, and the appropriate criminal charges were filed. We will continue to prosecute those involved with this disgraceful violation of the public trust."
Don Yowchuang, 33, of Farmington Hills, who worked as Deputy District Director for the former congressman, pleaded no contest today in Wayne County's 3rd Circuit Court before Judge Margie Braxton to ten counts of forgery, a five year felony, and six counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 18, 2013 at 9:00AM before Judge Braxton.
Paul Seewald, 47, of Livonia, who worked as District Director for the former congressman, pleaded guilty today in Wayne County's 3rd Circuit Court before Judge Margie Braxton to nine counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 18, 2013 at 9:00AM before Judge Braxton.
The remaining charge of Conspiracy to Commit an Legal Act in and Illegal Manner, a five year felony, remains pending against both Yowchuang and Seewald. Judge Braxton will hold a hearing to consider a motion filed by the defendants to quash the charge on January 9, 2013. The Attorney General's office will oppose the motion in court.
On August 9, 2012, Schuette announced the results of an investigation by the Attorney General's Public Integrity Unit into the alleged fraud surrounding nominating petitions filed in May 2012 on behalf of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter. At that announcement Schuette explained the former congressman was "asleep at the switch" and that four staff members were to face criminal charges.
Schuette alleged that members of McCotter's Michigan staff were involved in a deliberate fraud involving a pattern of copying and altering petitions in order to qualify the five-term congressman for the 2012 Michigan ballot.
On September 18, 2012, Lorianne O'Brady, 52, of Livonia, who worked as a scheduler to the former congressman, pleaded no contest in Wayne County's 16th District Court before Judge Kathleen J. McCann to five counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail. She was sentenced to 20 days in jail or 20 days in a work program. Following that sentence, she will serve 18 months' probation, with the first 12 months as reporting probation. O'Brady was also ordered to pay $2,625 in fines and court costs.
The remaining member of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter's Congressional Staff who faces criminal charges for their alleged role in the scandal is:
Mary Melissa Turnbull, District Representative, 58, of Howell – Turnbull was bound over for trial in Oakland County Circuit court where she faces two charges:
One count of Conspiracy to Commit a Legal Act in an Illegal Manner, a five-year felony; and,
One count of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail.
Turnbull is next due in court for a Pre-Trial Hearing before Judge Leo Bowman on January 8, 2013.
Since being created in February, 2011 by Attorney General Schuette, the Public Integrity Unit has filed 207 charges against 36 defendants in various cases of corruption in state and local government. To date, the unit has secured convictions against 13 elected officials and public employees and continues to pursue convictions of 19 others.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.