Amy Facchinello (left), 55, of Grand Blanc appears over Zoom in a Lansing court on August 10, 2023. (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)
Several individuals charged by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel with multiple felonies for submitting false electoral counts in 2020 in support of then-President Donald Trump appeared in a Lansing court Thursday.
A total of 16 individuals were each charged in July with eight election fraud-related felonies, including former Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, Michigan GOP National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood and Shelby Township Trustee and Clerk Stanley Grot.
The majority of the criminal charges carry a maximum of 14 years in prison. All 16 individuals have now been arraigned and pleaded not guilty.
Trump was indicted at the beginning of August when a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., accused him of enlisting “co-conspirators to assist him in his criminal efforts to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election and retain power” which ultimately led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The federal indictment accusing Trump of trying to stay in power after losing the 2020 presidential election includes detailed accusations of Trump and his alleged co-conspirators’ pressure on individual state officials.
The indictment accuses Trump of misleading and threatening allies in several states leading to false election results being filed for Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan.
According to the Michigan attorney general’s investigation, the group of Republicans sent false documents to the U.S. Capitol, claiming to be “the duly elected and qualified Electors” for Michigan, cast the state’s 16 electoral votes for Trump and then Vice President Mike Pence.
The reality is, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris won Michigan, a battleground state, by more than 154,000 votes, making the rightful electors to submit the state’s electoral votes in the 2020 election the Democratic electors.
However, the Attorney General’s office says members of the group now facing charges met at the Michigan Republican party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, to sign several documents to usurp the 2020 election results in Michigan by falsely claiming Trump had won the state.
Nine of the individuals charged by the Attorney General’s office were arraigned over Zoom in front of Court Magistrate Laura Millmore Thursday — eight of whom entered not guilty pleas and were granted $1000 bonds with the stipulation that they can’t be in possession of firearms.
Appearing in court Thursday:
Kathy Berden, 70, residing in Tennessee: A Michigan GOP National Committeewoman
Amy Facchinello, 55, of Grand Blanc: A Grand Blanc Board of Education Trustee
Clifford Frost, 75, of Warren: He lost the 28th District seat in the state House of Representatives during the Republican primary in 2020.
John Haggard, 82, of Charlevoix: A plaintiff in a case against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Timothy King, 56, of Ypsilanti: A plaintiff in a case against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Michele Lundgren, 73, of Detroit: She lost the race for the 9th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2022
James Renner, 76, of Lansing: Served as a precinct delegate in 2020 for Watertown Township.
Mayra Rodriguez, 64, of Grosse Pointe Farms: Lost the race for the 2nd District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2022, running as a Republican. Now House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) won the seat
Ken Thompson, 68, of Orleans: An Ionia County Republican who served as a precinct delegate and as the chair of Ionia County Republican Party’s August convention in 2022.
Michele Lundgren, 73, of Detroit was afforded the same bond as her peers, but did not enter a plea. She appeared very emotional over Zoom during her hearing and was appointed representation by the court after her attorney, Marcus Baldori, withdrew from her case.
During the arraignment of Berden, her attorneys noted that Berden does not live in Michigan anymore, having moved permanently to Tennessee this year after having a stroke in May 2022.
William Choate, 72, of Cement City was supposed to appear for a probable cause conference in front of Judge Kristen Simmons in the Lansing court, but his attorney Dave Kallman, said he was not aware his client had to be in-person. All of the individuals charged are on bonds for which not appearing for court appearances can warrant a violation.
Simmons said Choate could appear next Friday for a probable cause conference.
Some of the other defendants, like Choate, have already been arraigned and most are scheduled to appear in court next Friday.
David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR), did a Friday briefing with reporters via teleconference on the Trump Jan. 6 indictments, as well as charges facing GOP former state Rep. Daire Rendon, attorney Stefanie Lambert and former GOP attorney general nominee Matt DePerno as a result of an investigation into stolen voting tabulators following the 2020 election that Trump lost to President Joe Biden.
Becker also discussed the fake electors case in Michigan.
“I think in Michigan we’ve seen a pretty particular level of diligent activity with regard to bringing those who engaged in this fraud to justice. It’s important also to put Michigan into context,” Becker said. “Michigan wasn’t close. Michigan was a 150,000-vote margin in the presidential race. That was about, if I’m remembering correctly, about 15 times its margin in 2016.”
Trump won Michigan in 2016 over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by less than 11,000 votes.
Becker also praised Republicans, like former House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who were noted in the latest Trump indictment for not going along with plans to overturn the 2020 election. He also referenced a 2021 report from the GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee that found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“I think it’s refreshing to see leaders in Michigan take so much responsibility and that is not just Democrats,” Becker said. “That is, of course, leaders in the Michigan Legislature and they are referenced in the federal indictment. Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature who not only told the former president that his allegations were false at the time in November and December of 2020, but went further and engaged in a thorough investigation of the 2020 election by the Legislature in Michigan and came to the conclusion that the outcome was correct.”
Advance reporter Lily Guiney contributed to this story.
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