Trump allies in Michigan charged with felonies involving voting machines, illegal ‘testing’
By JOEY CAPPELLETTI (Associated Press)
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Two Michigan allies of former President Donald Trump, including a former Republican state attorney general candidate, were charged in connection with an effort to illegally access and tamper with voting machines in the state after the 2020 election, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Attorney Matthew DePerno was charged with undue possession of a voting machine and conspiracy, while Daire Rendon, a former Republican state representative, was charged with conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine and false pretenses, special prosecutor D.J. Hilson announced in a news release. Both were arraigned Tuesday afternoon, according to Richard Lynch, the court administrator for Oakland County’s 6th Circuit.
Michigan is just one of at least three states where prosecutors say people breached election systems while embracing and spreading Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
DePerno, who was endorsed by Trump in an unsuccessful run for Michigan attorney general last year, acknowledged in a statement that he was arraigned Tuesday, but his lawyer said that he “categorically denies any wrongdoing” and “looks forward to the date when his innocence will be demonstrated in a court of law.”
A phone message was left Tuesday with a lawyer listed in court documents as representing Rendon.
DePerno and Rendon are among nine people in Michigan named thus far by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office as having been involved in the scheme. Asked whether the broader investigation continues, Hilson replied in an email, “Still more to come unrelated to the individuals currently charged.”
Hilson has been considering charges since September. He convened a grand jury in March to determine whether criminal indictments should be issued, according to court documents.
In his statement, Hilson said the charges against DePerno and Rendon were authorized by “an independent citizens grand jury,” and that his office did not make any recommendations.
The charges come the same day Trump was charged by the U.S. Justice Department with conspiracy to defraud the United States and other counts as part of his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The former president is also being investigated for election interference in Georgia.
In Michigan, five vote tabulators were illegally taken from three counties and brought to a hotel room, according to documents released last year by Nessel’s office. Investigators found that the tabulators were broken into and “tests” were performed on the equipment. DePerno was named as a “prime instigator” in the case.
Because Nessel ran against DePerno in 2022, her office cited a conflict of interest and requested a special prosecutor. The Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council appointed Hilson to the case.
Charges were slow in coming, in part because prosecutors wanted clarification from a judge about what constitutes illegal possession of a voting machine. Some of the defendants argued that local clerks gave them permission to take the machines.
A state judge ruled last month that it is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to take a machine without a court order or permission directly from the Secretary of State’s office.
In a separate investigation, Nessel announced eight criminal charges each last month against 16 Republicans who she said submitted false certificates as electors for then-President Trump in Michigan, a state Joe Biden won.
The charges include forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery. The group includes the head of the Republican National Committee’s chapter in Michigan, Kathy Berden, and the former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Meshawn Maddock.
Maddock pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last Thursday. Berden is set to be arraigned on Aug. 10.
Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.