Politics & Government
1:28 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

Felony charges against McCotter staffers dropped by judge

Another chapter in the Thaddeus McCotter petition fraud scandal came to a close today as a judge dropped felony conspiracy charges against two of McCotter's former staffers.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Margie Braxton found that the staffers were not involved in a planned conspiracy, merely that they were caught without enough signatures they day they needed them.

Eric Lawrence of the Detroit Free Press reports:

“There was no conspiracy involved,” said Braxton, who noted that she was swayed by the arguments of Seewald’s attorney, Mark Mandell of Northville. “Why would they do it? Why would they take such a chance?”

She noted that the petitions were doctored on the day they were due.

The judge instead ordered the men to serve probation and community service, according to Christine Ferretti of the Detroit News:

The felony count could have cost the men up to five years in prison. Both had faced potential time behind bars after entering pleas in November on multiple counts tied to the scandal.

Braxton ordered Yowchuang, 33, to serve three years of probation. If he violates probation, he'll spend a year in county jail, she said. Yowchuang, who pleaded no contest to 10 felony counts and six misdemeanors, must also complete 200 hours of community service.

Seewald, 48, will serve two years of probation and complete 100 hours of community service, Braxton ruled.

The Livonia man pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor counts of falsely signing petitions as a circulator.

Braxton also imposed court fines and costs for the pair. If they cannot pay, they may each do 75 additional community service hours, she said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's office said they will consider an appeal.

McCotter had served as a Representative for Michigan's 11th district from 2003 until 2011 when his bid for reelection was derailed by the scandal.

To run in the election, McCotter had to turn 1,000 petition signatures into election officials.

His staff turned in 2,000 signatures, but only 244 were valid. The rest were copies or forgeries.