LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s attorney general filed felony charges Tuesday against 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for then-President Donald Trump in 2020, accusing them of submitting false certificates that confirmed they were legitimate electors despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that all 16 people would face eight criminal charges, including forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery. The top charges carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The group includes the head of the Republican National Committee’s chapter in Michigan, Kathy Berden, as well as the former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Meshawn Maddock, and Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot.
In seven battleground states, including Michigan, supporters of Trump signed certificates that falsely stated he won their states, not Biden. The fake certificates were ignored, but the attempt has been subject to investigations, including by the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“The false electors’ actions undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement.
The 16 individuals are set to appear for arraignment in Ingham County at a date provided to each by the court, according to Nessel’s office.
Phone and email messages seeking comment Tuesday from several of the people charged were not immediately returned.
One of those charged, John Haggard, 82, of Charlevoix, told The Detroit News on Tuesday that he he didn’t believe he did anything wrong.
“Did I do anything illegal? No,” Haggard said.
GOP state Sen. Ed McBroom, who chaired a GOP-led Senate panel to investigate Michigan’s 2020 presidential election that found no wrongdoing, said he previously spoke with one of the fake electors. It was clear, McBroom said, that the effort was organized by “people who put themselves in a position of authority and posing themselves as the ones who knew what they were doing.”
“They were wrong,” McBroom told The Associated Press. “And other people followed them when they shouldn’t have.”
Berden and Mayra Rodriguez, a Michigan lawyer who was also charged Tuesday, were both questioned by congressional investigators as part of the U.S. House panel’s investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection.
In January of last year, Nessel asked federal prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the 16 Republicans.
“Obviously this is part of a much bigger conspiracy,” she said at the time.
Electors are people appointed to represent voters in presidential elections. The winner of the popular vote in each state determines which party’s electors are sent to the Electoral College, which meets in December after the election to certify the outcome.
False Electoral College certificates were also submitted declaring Trump the winner of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Investigations are underway in some other states that submitted fake electors, but not all.
A Georgia prosecutor investigating possible illegal meddling in the 2020 election has agreed to immunity deals with at least eight fake electors. And Arizona’s Democratic attorney general is in the very early stages of a probe. Nevada’s attorney general, also a Democrat, has said he won’t bring charges, while Wisconsin has no active investigation and the attorney general has deferred to the U.S. Justice Department.
There is no apparent investigation in Pennsylvania and former Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is now governor, said he didn’t believe there was evidence the actions of the fake electors met the legal standards for forgery.
A group of other Trump allies in Michigan, including former GOP attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno, are facing potential criminal charges related to attempts to gain access to voting machines after the 2020 election.
According to documents released last year by Nessel’s office, five vote tabulators were taken from Roscommon and Missaukee counties in northern Michigan, and Barry County in western Michigan. The tabulators were subsequently broken into and “tests” were performed on the equipment.
A grand jury was convened in March at the request of a special prosecutor to consider indictments, according to court records. The special prosecutor, D.J. Hilson, wrote in May in a court document that “a charging decision is ready to be made.”