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Judge Orders McCotter Staffers to Stand Trial

Don Yowchuang and Paul Seewald, two former staffers for ex-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, will stand trial for allegedly filing fraudulent ballot petitions on behalf of the Michigan Republican’s re-election bid.

This morning, 16th District Court Judge Sean Kavanagh delivered his decision to submit Yowchuang and Seewald to a formal trial. And in a somewhat ironic twist, given the charges, their arraignment will take place on Nov. 6, Election Day.

“State election laws apply to everyone, and public employees are no exception. We are confident in our case and prepared for trial,” said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

On Oct. 11, during their preliminary examination, Yowchuang and Seewald both pleaded not guilty to allegations that they sought to act in an illegal manner and falsely signed a nominating petition as a circulator. Yowchuang is also being charged with election law forgery.

The judge was expected to rule then whether there was enough evidence to warrant a trial for the two former staffers, but he decided to take additional time to review the facts of the case.

The preliminary examination two weeks ago had another twist in what might have been routine proceedings: McCotter, who has avoided public appearances since his resignation in July, took the stand to testify. He told the court that he was repeatedly told by staffers that he had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in his re-election race.

“Every inquiry made, including my own, is that we were on target,” McCotter said, according to local media reports. “The answer was always, ‘Everything was fine.’”

McCotter dropped his re-election bid in June after filing only about a quarter of the requisite 1,000 valid signatures to get on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. His petitions were rife with errors and duplications, and the state attorney general launched an investigation soon after.

There are two other former staffers who are implicated in misconduct surrounding McCotter’s re-election campaign following a 10-week investigation that concluded in August: Mary Melissa Turnbull and Lorianne O’Brady.

O’Brady pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of falsely signing a nominating petition in September, and her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Turnbull was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner and one count of falsely signing a nominating petition. She has had her preliminary examination, and a judge presiding over her case will determine Nov. 1 whether she will stand trial.

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