Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan State Police turns over Chatfield probe to AG’s office

By: - September 26, 2022 12:12 pm

Former House Speaker Lee Chatfield | Andrew Roth

Updated, 4:11 p.m., 9/28/22 with comments from Nessel’s office, Chatfield’s attorney

The Michigan State Police’s nine-month sexual assault and financial misconduct investigation into former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) has concluded and has been turned over to Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Chatfield, who was Michigan’s youngest-ever House speaker when he was elected to the position in 2018, served until 2020. He is accused of sexually assaulting his sister-in-law for more than a decade starting when she was a child, but has denied the allegations, characterizing the relationship as a consensual “affair.” 

The Michigan State Police (MSP) has been investigating the complaint since December 2021, when it was filed with the Lansing Police Department. The MSP wrapped most of that probe in May, submitting a preliminary report to Nessel, then offering additional information in August.

Details surface of former Speaker Chatfield’s alleged sexual abuse of sister-in-law

“MSP is no longer investigating this matter as it has been turned over to the AG’s investigators for completion,” MSP spokesperson Shanon Banner said in an email Monday. “Any further information or updates will come from the AG’s Office.” 

The MSP has not made recommendations on charges, but has presented all evidence to Nessel for her office to potentially file them. It is working in partnership with the AG to help conclude her end of the investigation, according to the Detroit News.

That portion of the investigation looks into allegations of campaign funds directed to family members and legislative staffers, hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonuses given to Chatfield’s staffers and more financial improprieties.

Police searched the home of two of Lee Chatfield’s former top staffers in February.

“Nothing about that changes that Mr. Chatfield vehemently denies the allegations by his sister-in-law of any assaultive conduct during their years-long consensual adult affair,” said Chatfield’s attorney, Mary Chartier.

“Their affair only occurred when both were adults. He further denies any financial wrongdoing and is confident that all those involved with the finances complied with the law.”*

Nessel’s office is still continuing its part of the investigation into allegations involving financial improprieties when Chatfield was speaker.

“The Department of Attorney General does not comment regarding ongoing investigations. While MSP has said their work is concluded, the Department’s investigation is ongoing,” Nessel spokesperson Amber McCann said Wednesday.*

Rebekah Chatfield, now 26, alleged last year that the assaults began when she was about 14 or 15 as a student at Burt Lake’s Northern Michigan Christian Academy and continued until about July 2021. Lee Chatfield was a teacher, coach and athletic director at the school before taking office in 2014. He is married with five children.

Rebekah Chatfield is married to Lee Chatfield’s brother, Aaron Chatfield, who has supported her in the allegations. 

The MSP’s report included interviews and search warrants from late winter through early spring. Among the interviews are those with Rebekah Chatfield; Aaron Chatfield; Lee Chatfield’s brother, Paul; and Lee Chatfield’s wife, Stephanie. Lee Chatfield reportedly declined to interview with the police but his lawyer responded via email to some questions from investigators.

Search warrants detailed in the report include preservation notices sent to Snapchat, several phone seizures, three school computers, warrants at Northern Michigan Christian Academy, yearbooks and student records.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.