Defendants in the 2020 fake electors case appear via Zoom for a probable cause conference on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. | Kyle Davidson
Many of the individuals charged in connection with the 2020 false electors scheme appeared in court on Friday to set dates for their preliminary examinations.
Of the case’s 16 defendants, 14 were scheduled to appear in court for a probable cause conference, with the exception of William Choate, who was scheduled for a preliminary examination that Judge Kristen Simmons said she would treat as a probable cause conference.
In addition to Choate, defendants Kathy Berden, Amy Facchinello, Clifford Frost, Stanley Grot, John Haggard, Timothy King, Michele Lundgren, James Renner, Mayra Rodriguez, Rose Rook, Marian Sheridan, Kenneth Thompson, and Kent Vanderwood appeared in court via Zoom call.
Given the large amount of documents and facts presented to the defendants’ attorneys to review for the case, and a scheduling conflict with the prosecution, the defendants waived their right to an examination within 21 days of their arraignment, rescheduling the examination on later dates to allow the defense attorney’s time to properly prepare their case.
“This case is anything but typical. There are very significant factual and legal defenses that are going to require an extensive assessment,” said John Freeman, Sheridan’s attorney.
During Rodriguez’s hearing, her attorney, Wright Blake, said he had not yet received documents and information about the case from the Attorney General’s office. Assistant Attorney General LaDonna Logan said she would get the documents to Blake.
All 16 defendants had been arraigned as of Aug. 10. All pleaded not guilty to charges connected to an alleged plot to submit false electoral votes in support of former President Donald Trump. Each is charged with eight felonies, most of which carry a maximum of up to 14 years in prison.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the charges on July 18. According to an affidavit filed by Special Investigator Howard Shock, the 16 Republicans allegedly sent documents to the United States Senate and National Archives saying Trump had been reelected.
Here are the 16 people charged:
Kathy Berden, 70, of Snover: A Michigan Republican national committeewoman.
William (Hank) Choate, 72, of Cement City: Served as chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party.
Amy Facchinello, 55, of Grand Blanc: A trustee on the Grand Blanc Board of Education who ran on right-wing values and has posted QAnon content on social media.
Clifford Frost, 75, of Warren: Ran for the 28th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2020, but lost in the Republican primary.
Stanley Grot, 71, of Shelby Township: A GOP powerbroker in Macomb County, serving on the Shelby Township Board of Trustees. as well as the township clerk. In 2018, he ran for secretary of state but abruptly dropped out of the race, which became the center of an alleged payoff scandal that resulted in then-Michigan Party Chair Ron Weiser paying a $200,000 state fine for violating campaign finance law.
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.
Mari-Ann Henry, 65, of Brighton: As of June 29, 2022, Henry’s LinkedIn listed her as the treasurer of the Greater Oakland Republican Club.
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: Ran for the 9th District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2022, but lost in the general election.
Meshawn Maddock, 55, of Milford: Former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party and vocal proponent of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She attended a pro-Trump event on Jan. 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C., the day before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. She is the co-owner of A1 Bail Bonds, a bail bondsman company, along with her spouse, GOP state Rep. Matt Maddock.
James Renner, 76, of Lansing: Served as a precinct delegate in 2020 for Watertown Township.
Mayra Rodriguez, 64, of Grosse Pointe Farms: Ran for the 2nd District seat in the state House of Representatives in 2022 as a Republican, but lost to now House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit).
Rose Rook, 81, of Paw Paw, a former Van Buren County GOP chair who also served on the executive committee of the county party.
Marian Sheridan, 69, of West Bloomfield: Co-founder of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a right-wing group founded by the Maddocks. Sheridan was also a plaintiff in a case to decertify the 2020 election in Michigan.
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.
Kent Vanderwood, 69, of Wyoming: Mayor of Wyoming and vice president of the Timothy Group, which advances Christian organizations.
Michigan is one of seven states cited in a federal indictment accusing Trump and his allies of trying to overturn the 2020 election, which Trump lost to President Joe Biden.
The alleged plot included a meeting in the basement of the Michigan Republican Party’s Lansing headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, following the election where Biden was elected as president, in which he also won the majority of Michigan’s votes.
During Choate’s appearance, his attorney, David Kallman, said he expected to file motions raising constitutional issues, which the Attorney General’s office would need time to respond to. Simmons scheduled Choate’s next appearance on Nov. 2 for a preliminary examination.
Vanderwood’s attorney, Brian Lennon, asked to schedule his client’s examination at the same date and time. Lennon asked that travel restrictions imposed as a condition of Vanderwood’s bond be lifted to allow him to travel for his duties as mayor of Wyoming and his own private employment, a request Simmons granted.
Simmons also approved a travel request for Berden to travel to Milwaukee, Wisc., to fulfill various roles at a conference for the Republican National Convention.
During Sheridan’s appearance, Freeman asked Simmons to schedule his client’s preliminary examination in January 2024, due to the significant amount of facts and discovery in the case and his own personal case schedule. Sheridan is scheduled to appear for another probable cause conference on Dec. 15.
Frost’s attorney filed a motion for a separate preliminary examination. In order to give the attorney time to respond and to address scheduling concerns with the prosecutor, Frost will appear for another probable cause conference on Sept. 7.
Berden, Facchinello, Thompson and Lundgren are slated for preliminary examinations on Oct. 12. Choate Grot, Haggard, King, Rook, Renner, Rodriguez and Vanderwood are scheduled for Nov. 2, with Rodriguez’s date subject to possible change for “life-threatening” health reasons, according to her attorney.
Defendants Meshawn Maddock and Mari-Ann Henry, who did not appear in court on Friday, are also scheduled for preliminary examinations on Oct. 12.
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