No law broken by McCotter as ex-staffers arraigned - Fox 2 News Headlines

No law broken by McCotter as ex-staffers arraigned

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Former McCotter campaign staffers Don Yowchuang (right) and Paul Seewald (left) appeared in court Friday. Former McCotter campaign staffers Don Yowchuang (right) and Paul Seewald (left) appeared in court Friday.
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  • AG announces charges against 4 after McCotter petition mess

    AG announces charges against 4 after McCotter petition mess

    Thursday, August 9 2012 10:58 PM EDT2012-08-10 02:58:44 GMT
    Bill Schuette announced charges Thursday for four former campaign staffers of former U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter, including forgery, conspiracy and falsely signing election documents.
    Bill Schuette announced charges Thursday for four former campaign staffers of former U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter, including forgery, conspiracy and falsely signing election documents.

By JEFF KAROUB and MIKE HOUSEHOLDER
Associated Press

LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) -- Three former staffers of ex-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter pleaded not guilty to fraud charges Friday, a day after Michigan's top law enforcement official accused the ex-congressman of being "asleep at the switch" while his workers faked ballot petition signatures that ultimately forced him to resign.
 
Four of the Republican's former workers are accused of crimes ranging from forgery to conspiracy. McCotter himself has not been charged, with Attorney General Bill Schuette saying there wasn't specific evidence to link him to the scheme -- but chastising him for not preventing it.
 
Some legal experts agreed that McCotter should have been more astute, and suggested he may have been if political candidates in Michigan were required to attest -- under penalty of perjury -- to the accuracy or truthfulness of the nominating petitions. Under state law, congressional and most other political candidates must sign an affidavit attesting only to the number, not the validity, of signatures being submitted to the state supporting their candidacies.
 
"The underlying issue here is the public's confidence in the electoral system," said Michael Traugott, a University of Michigan elections expert. "If such a form or law or requirement helps to maintain or increase the public's confidence in the electoral system, that's a good thing."
 
The affidavit that McCotter signed in May, which was obtained by The Associated Press, notes that his staff turned in 2,000 signatures -- twice as many as needed to be eligible for the Aug. 7 primary ballot. But 80 percent were found to be fake or duplicated.
 
Three of his former workers -- deputy district director Don Yowchuang, district director Paul Seewald and district representative Mary Turnbull -- were arraigned Friday on charges ranging from forgery and conspiracy to falsely signing election documents. The three were released on bond, while a fourth defendant, former scheduler Lorianne O'Brady, is expected to be arraigned next week.
 
Yowchuang and Seewald's attorney, Timothy Dinan, said his clients have been "completely cooperative" and have no prior criminal history. Yowchuang is facing 17 charges and Seewald is facing 10 charges.
 
"It's one thing to make accusations. It's another to prove them," Dinan said outside of court.
 
A phone listing for Turnbull, who is facing two charges, was disconnected.
 
After the charges were announced Thursday, McCotter released a statement thanking the attorney general, a fellow Republican, and his office "for their earnest, thorough work on this investigation, which I requested, and their subsequent report."
 
McCotter's resignation last month capped a bizarre political downfall for the guitar-slinging Republican who ran a little-noticed campaign for president in 2011. His failure to submit the needed signatures paved the way for tea party-backed Kerry Bentivolio to win the GOP nomination in Tuesday's primary. Bentivolio faces Democratic Dr. Syed Taj in the Nov. 6 election for the Detroit-area 11th District.
 
Former Rep. Joe Schwarz, a physician and former Republican congressman and state lawmaker, said McCotter was responsible -- like all candidates -- for his campaign staff. Schwarz said signing an affidavit related to the validity of the signatures would put the candidate in the center of the process.
 
"I don't think an extra step, further validation ... is a bad idea. Maybe it would have prevented this from happening," Schwarz said.
 
"You cannot assume anything in the process," he added. "If you assume anything ... the potential for something unfortunate to happen is real, and that's what happened."
 
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, a Republican from Monroe, believes McCotter was the victim but nevertheless had an obligation to know or at least find out what was going on.
 
"The bottom line is whoever's name is on the yard sign is reponsible for everything that happens," he said.
 
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Karoub reported from Detroit.
 
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Follow Jeff Karoub on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffkaroub

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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