LANSING, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- A detective from the Michigan State Police was still investigating possible election fraud in connection with the recruitment of a fake candidate for a Grand Rapids legislative seat when the probe was shut down by the Kent County prosecutor, records released Tuesday under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act show.
Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said Tuesday that the investigation was closed as "a mutual decision" between him and the State Police because it became clear no criminal laws had been broken.
Detective Sgt. Robert Davis had obtained search warrants for House Speaker Jase Bolger's cell phone records and state Rep. Roy Schmidt's e-mail and cell phone records when he was told by Forsyth on July 16 "that no charges would be authorized as no clear criminal statute had been violated," according to the State Police records obtained by the Free Press.
Davis then canceled the three search warrants, stored some pieces of evidence and destroyed others, officially closing the case July 18.
Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said Forsyth shut down the investigation prematurely.
A spokeswoman for the State Police backed Forsyth's account.
"What happened in this investigation is not uncommon," said Shanon Banner. "We were investigating and providing the prosecutor with information until he had enough facts to make a determination on whether a crime had occurred. When he indicated he did, we stopped investigating."
On July 17, Forsyth released a report that castigated Schmidt and Bolger for trying to perpetrate a fraud on Grand Rapids voters but said no criminal laws were broken.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office is in the midst of a separate investigation into possible violations of campaign finance law.
The criminal investigation related to the recruitment, through promises of cash, of an acquaintance of Schmidt's son to file as a patsy Democratic candidate just as Schmidt, a two-term Democratic representative, pulled a last-minute switch and joined the Republicans.
The effect of Schmidt's party switch and 22-year-old Matthew Mojzak's last-minute candidacy -- both of which were filed by a top aide to Bolger just before a May 15 deadline -- was to make it difficult for Democrats to mount a write-in challenge, because Mojzak would be listed as a Democrat on the ballot.
But the plans quickly fell through when the news media discovered Mojzak had only just moved into the Grand Rapids westside district. He got cold feet and pulled out, despite offers from Schmidt and his son Ryan to sweeten the payment he would have received to $1,000 from about $500.
Forsyth said it should be illegal to switch parties shortly before a filing deadline. It's possible bills could move in the Legislature today -- the only session day this month -- to prevent such a debacle from recurring, officials said.
The State Police report includes new details, including an appearance in the drama by AT&T Michigan President Jim Murray.
Ed Kettle, who was Schmidt's chief of staff and had worked for him for 11 years, told investigators that he and another Schmidt staffer, Elizabeth Christy, were called into Murray's Lansing office near the Capitol on the day of Schmidt's party switch after going to AT&T to pick up items for a golf outing Schmidt had planned.
Kettle said he and Murray "exchanged small talk for a few minutes," and "the whole thing felt weird."
But Schmidt soon showed up in Murray's office and "told them he was switching parties and that he would like (Kettle and Christy) to stay but understood if they didn't want to."
Matthew Resch, a spokesman for AT&T, said Murray "did help put Rep. Schmidt in touch with Speaker Bolger about possibly switching parties," and "that was the extent of his involvement."
Records in the case show Schmidt repeatedly lied about the party switch. Mojzak asked Schmidt why he wanted him to run and "Roy told him that if no one was running against him, he wouldn't be able to raise campaign funds," the records show.
Though the intent was for Schmidt to have an easy ride to re-election, the effect has been anything but. Schmidt barely survived a strong Republican write-in challenge from Grand Rapids businessman Bing Goei on Aug. 7. Because of another successful write-in effort in the primary, he will face Democrat Winnie Brinks in the general election.
The police report includes several previously unreported text messages exchanged between Schmidt and Bolger.
On May 14, the night before the party switch, the pair prepared for a meeting at Bolger's home in Marshall.
"What's ur favorite beer?" Bolger asked Schmidt.
"Bid lite," Schmidt replied, with an apparent spelling error.
"I'll have one cold for u," Bolger texted.
"Great! I need my first favor!" Schmidt texted back. "Remember back -- schulers cheese/crackers? I begged you for more -- in front of (Bolger's wife) Molly and you delivered!"
"Will take care of u again!!" Bolger replied.
By Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau