DETROIT (Det. Free Press) -- Three former top aides to former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter were arraigned this morning on election fraud charges.
State elections officials said petition signatures submitted by McCotter's campaign were riddled with an almost unprecedented level of obvious duplication and other irregularities. The campaign submitted more than 1,800 signatures, but only 244 were deemed valid. Candidates for the U.S. House need to collect signatures from 1,000 registered voters in the district to qualify for the ballot.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said the McCotter staffers also likely did the same thing in the 2008 elections, using 2006 petition signatures.
Don Yowchuang and Paul Seewald were arraigned at the Livonia district court and were released on $50,000 bond. Mary M. Turnbull, was arraigned in Troy district court and released on $5,000 bond.
Both men waived off reporters' questions as they left the the court following their four minute appearance before Magistrate Dennis Epler.
Yowchuang was ordered to surrender his passport and both men agreed not to leave the state without the court's permission.
Defense attorney Timothy Dinan, who represents both men, said the charges went beyond what was necessary.
He said both men have cooperated fully with the government, giving multiple sworn statements.
"And I don't know how much more they could have cooperated," he said.
Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin declined comment on the charges.
Yowchuang, 33, of Farmington Hills, the deputy district director, is charged with 10 counts of election-related forgery and one count of conspiracy. All are felony charges. He also was charged with six misdemeanor counts of falsely signing election documents.
Seewald, 47, of Livonia, the district director, was charged with one felony count of conspiracy to violate election laws and nine misdemeanor counts of falsely signing election documents.
A hearing was set for Sept. 18 with a preliminary examination set for Sept. 20, where prosecutors must show there is enough evidence for the men to face trial in Circuit Court.
Turnbull, 58, of Howell, a district representative, faces one felony county of conspiracy to violate election laws and one misdemeanor count of falsely signing election documents. She is set to return to court on Aug. 16.
Lorianne O'Brady, former scheduler, 52, of Livonia was also charged Thursday with five counts of falsely signing a nominating petition. O'Brady, whose lawyer Matthew Leitman is out of town, is expected to be arraigned in Livonia early next week.
By Joe Swickard, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer