Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel: Debating DePerno while investigating him would ‘violate my oath of office’

By: - September 1, 2022 10:46 am

Attorney General Dana Nessel (left) and GOP AG nominee Matt DePerno (right) | Andrew Roth

After a number of challenges Republican Attorney General nominee Matthew DePerno has posed to Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel to debate him before the November election, Nessel released a lengthy statement Wednesday outlining why she believes that would raise legal issues.

Generally and “in ordinary times,” Nessel said, she has “never shied away from events in which I can be subjected to unfettered questioning and/or questioning.”

“ … Unfortunately for the voters of Michigan, I must decline any debates against [DePerno],” she continued, citing the active investigation her office is pursuing against him.

DePerno, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump,  is one of nine individuals named in a petition by Nessel’s office seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor. It is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of a conspiracy that third parties illegally obtained and tampered with voting tabulators after the 2020 election that Trump lost to President Joe Biden.

Nessel seeks special prosecutor for DePerno, 8 others in 2020 election conspiracy investigation

Other individuals named in the investigation include state Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) and Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf.

The investigation into the alleged voting equipment tampering began earlier this year by Michigan State Police and the AG’s office following a request from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Her office had received reports that an unnamed third party was able to access vote tabulator components and technology in Roscommon County.

Nessel notes that the American Bar Association rule 3.6 prevents her from making extrajudicial statements that “will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter,” while rule 3.8 bars her from making extrajudicial comments with a “substantial likelihood of heightening condemnation of the accused.”

“I have every reason to believe Mr. DePerno will interject on this subject, whether asked about it or not,” Nessel said. “And in abiding by my oath of office, I will — for all intents and purposes — be drawn into a boxing match with one hand tied behind my back, unable to speak about the matter and unable to repudiate any untruthful or misleading statements Mr. DePerno may assert.”

DePerno has repeatedly claimed that Nessel’s actions are politically motivated, denied that he was in the hotel room when a tabulator was broken into and said Nessel should be “impeached” for seeking the investigation.

He doubled down in a statement following Nessel’s comments that included numerous baseless accusations and personal insults about her.

“Since 2019, Dana Nessel has been an embarrassment to the people of Michigan, and they deserve better,” DePerno said.

Nessel, who is Jewish and gay, also cited DePerno’s “propensity to engage in name-calling, and in utilizing racist, anti-Semetic, homophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric and imagery.”

“I will not be a party to creating a forum which will further allow Mr. DePerno to disseminate such hateful and dangerous rhetoric,” Nessel said.

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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.