Michigan AG wants special prosecutor in case of alleged voting machine tampering

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The office of the state's chief prosecutor is ready for an outside attorney to consider bringing criminal charges against key Michigan Republican officials in connection to a sweeping investigation tied to efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential election.

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, is seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to weigh whether charges are necessary against GOP-endorsed attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno, state Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, and others, according to a document obtained by Politico.

Michigan Attorney General canddiates Dana Nessel, a Democrat, left and Republican challenger Matthew DePerno.
Michigan Attorney General canddiates Dana Nessel, a Democrat, left and Republican challenger Matthew DePerno.

More: Investigation into those who fought 2020 election results heats up ahead of Aug. primary

More: Michigan appeals court rules against DePerno effort to revive debunked election fraud case

The investigation alleges DePerno, Rendon and an attorney with ties to the sweeping so-called "Kraken" election misinformation lawsuits, "orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access to voting tabulators" in four Michigan municipalities, according to a request for a special prosecutor from Nessel's office obtained by Politico.

Politico, Reuters and the Detroit News were the first to report the request for a special prosecutor.

"There must be consequences for those who broke the law to undermine our elections in order to advance their own political agendas. I'm thankful to Attorney General Nessel for conducting this investigation into the tampering of our secure voting machines and referring the case for prosecution," Benson said in a written statement to the Free Press.

"The republican, democratic and nonpartisan election clerks of this state do their jobs with professional and integrity, and we will continue to ensure they are equipped with a full understanding of the legal protections in place to block bad actors from pressuring them to gain access to sure election systems."

A separate letter, sent Friday to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson from Christina M. Grossi, a chief deputy attorney general, does not specifically name any of the accused. But DePerno, Rendon and others are easily identified from the context of the message.

It notes in part that the attorney involved in the Antrim County election fraud lawsuit — DePerno — issued a subpoena to Verizon that included numbers identifying voting machines. The only way anyone could know those numbers is "to break open the security seals and physically remove the outer panels to look inside of the tabulators and read the ID numbers on the modems," according to Grossi's letter.

The ID numbers specifically match machines that were illegally accessed in Roscommon County and Richfield Township, a municipality in the same northern Michigan county, according to the letter.

In a statement posted to Twitter, DePerno's campaign manager Tyson Shephard does not directly reference the ongoing criminal investigation into his candidate. But he says, "Dana Nessel has a history of targeting and persecuting her political enemies" and "she is desperate to win this election at all costs and is now targeting DePerno."

Those involved allegedly gained illegal access to voting machines in Irving Township, located in west Michigan's Barry County, and Lake City Township, located west of Cadillac.

"In Roscommon County the clerk stated she was told by Rep. Rendon that the House of Representatives was conducting an investigation in election fraud," states the letter seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Immediately following the 2020 election, both the House and Senate launched separate investigations. While both gave public time to people asserting election conspiracies — ex-Trump campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani's appearance in the Michigan House was later lampooned on Saturday Night Live — neither entity published reports that found any evidence of sweeping or systemic fraud.

In fact, the Senate's June 2021 report states, "the committee closely followed Mr. DePerno’s efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions."

Afterward, Nessel confirmed she was investigating those tied to attempting to undermine election results. Once DePerno announced in July of 2021 that he would run for attorney general, she said she would recuse herself if and when any investigation into him prompted possible criminal charges.

The request for the special prosecutor names nine people: DePerno, Rendon, Leaf, Stefanie Lambert Juntilla, Ann Howard, Ben Cotton, Jeff Lenberg, Douglas Logan and James Penrose.

Leaf has already publicly acknowledged in a lawsuit he has sought to gain access to voting machines.

In addition to working with DePerno, Lambert Juntilla was a key player in the Michigan lawsuit led by Sidney Powell, a Trump-supporting attorney who filed lawsuits in several swing states alleging wide-ranging and unfounded conspiracies. Lambert Juntilla filed several motions on the ultimately unsuccessful effort to fend off sanctions leveled by a federal judge in Michigan against those who brought the so-called "Kraken" lawsuit in the state.

Contact Dave Boucher at dboucher@freepress.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan AG seeks special prosecutor for election probe into DePerno, others