Trump-backed Kalamazoo attorney Matthew DePerno speaks at a right-wing rally calling for a so-called “audit” of the 2020 election at the Michigan Capitol, Oct. 12, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins
The man expected to be the Republican candidate for Michigan attorney general, who also is facing potential felony charges of illegally accessing election equipment, openly bragged about gaining access to a voting tabulator after the 2020 election.
That’s according to a Detroit News review of podcast interviews Matt DePerno did in spring 2021.
DePerno, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is one of nine individuals who were named in a petition by the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into allegations of a conspiracy to illegally obtain and tamper with voting tabulators as part of an effort to spread disproven claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election that Trump lost to President Joe Biden.
On the May 6, 2021, episode of the podcast “Information Operation,” DePerno stated he and others gained access to a tabulator, which they then used to simulate an election.
“And if I can do it up here in Michigan, with just a couple guys, you don’t think China knows how to do this?” DePerno asked. “You don’t think Russia knows how to do this? You don’t think people in D.C. know how to do it?”
DePerno made similar claims a month earlier in an interview for the far-right website Gateway Pundit, in which he said his team had “looked at a couple different machines” as well asin an April 22, 2021, appearance on the “Information Operation” podcast, where DePerno admitted to “under the hood” of tabulators to see how the vote-counting machines operated.
Those statements would seemingly be a violation of state law that makes it illegal to willfully damage “any ballot box or voting machine,” as stated by Danielle Hagaman-Clark, division chief for the Criminal Trials and Appeals Division of the Michigan Department of Attorney General, in her petition to the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council seeking a special prosecutor.
The petition alleges that DePerno was among those present in an Oakland County hotel room in early 2021 during a test of one of the illegally obtained tabulators and that because he is the presumptive nominee to face Nessel in November, a special prosecutor is required to avoid a conflict of interest.
“When this investigation began there was not a conflict of interest,” states the petition. “However, during the course of the investigation, facts were developed that DePerno was one of the prime instigators of the conspiracy,” says the petition. “A conflict arises when the prosecuting attorney has a personal interest (financial or emotional) in the litigation.”
DePerno, who is set to run in November against Nessel, a Democrat seeking reelection, vehemently denied the allegations while appearing Monday on conservative talk radio show.
“I have nothing to do with any hotel rooms or any Airbnbs,” DePerno told Michael Patrick Shiels, host of “Michigan’s Big Show,” adding “90% of the facts that she lays out, that she calls facts, in her petition are either false or I have no knowledge of what she’s talking about.”
However, a video on DePerno’s website shows Jeffrey Lenberg, described as a cybersecurity expert, running ballots through a Dominion Voting Systems tabulator on May 3, 2021. That video was featured in a segment on One America News Network (OANN) claimed the video demonstrated how voting systems can be compromised to manipulate results.
DePerno then promoted the OANN report on the May 7, 2021 episode of the podcast “Dark to Light with Frank & Beanz,” during which one of the hosts asked if the tabulator being used was from Antrim County.
“We can’t tell you what machine he’s using,” DePerno said. “But he’s using a Dominion voting tabulator. And it’s a tabulator that is of all the same specifications of anything that we would find in Antrim County. Same model. Same brand. Same programming. Same everything.”
Antrim County has figured prominently in several baseless conspiracy theories that voting equipment was “rigged” against former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Much of that was based on preliminary Antrim County election results that briefly showed Biden winning due to human error, although the mistake was quickly corrected.
In fact, DePerno came to prominence after filing a lawsuit regarding the Antrim County results and called for a so-called “forensic audit.” The suit was dismissed by a 13th Circuit Court judge in May 2021 and then by the Michigan Court of Appeals this past April, but not before DePerno was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in pursuit of the disproven claims.
An investigative summary provided by Chief Deputy Attorney General Christina M. Grossi indicated that digital ID’s matching the voting machines seized as part of an investigation by the AG’s office and Michigan State Police were the same ones DePerno had used as evidence in the Antrim County lawsuit as well featured in the “splash page” on his website.
DePerno campaign manager Tyson Shepard, who on Monday called the petition seeking a special prosecutor “unethical” and politically motivated, told the Detroit News that DePerno gained access to the tabulator through the voluntary actions of a precinct clerk, confirming an allegation made in the AG’s investigatory summary.
“Ultimately, our investigation uncovered that, after the 2020 election, a group of individuals gained unauthorized access and compromised tabulators from the following clerk’s offices: the Roscommon County Clerk, the Richfield Township Clerk, the Lake City Township Clerk, and the Irving Township Clerk,” said Grossi. “All unauthorized access occurred between the dates of March 11, 2021, and late June of 2021. All impacted tabulators have been seized as evidence as part of our investigation and decommissioned from use in any future elections.”
The AG’s petition for a special prosecutor says that the five tabulators were transported to hotels or other rental properties in Oakland County, where self-described cybersecurity experts, connected to DePerno, “broke into” them and “performed ‘tests.”
The Detroit News reports than an analysis of the video featuring Lenberg indicate that it was recorded in an apartment building along 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak which is the same address used in business filings by Michael Lynch.
Lynch is a private investigator who assisted Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf in his investigation of disproven claims of election fraud. Leaf is among the nine individuals named in the petition.
Lynch is also reportedly connected to a July 9, 2021, “election integrity fundraising evening” in California that included DePerno as well as attorney Stefanie Lambert and cybersecurity expert James Penrose. Lambert and Penrose are also named in the petition.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said her office would work to ensure that election officials across the state understood the legal protections available to them to prevent future attempts at gaining improper access to election equipment.
“There must be consequences for those who broke the law to undermine our elections in order to advance their own political agendas,” stated Benson. “I’m thankful to Attorney General Nessel for conducting this investigation into the tampering of our secure voting machines and referring the case for prosecution.”
In her letter relating details of the investigation, Grossi concurred that additional education was needed for election officials statewide.
“… [E]lection clerks should be notified that they should always request to see identification from any individual purporting to be a law enforcement officer and seeking to inspect or seize election equipment,” she said. If a clerk is presented with a legal document and is unsure of how to proceed, he or she should seek advice from their legal counsel.”
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