Michigan prosecutors charge Trump allies, including Matthew DePerno, with felonies over voting machines

Two allies of former President Donald Trump, including a former Republican state attorney general candidate, were charged with felonies Tuesday involving voting machines and illegal “testing” following the 2020 election.  Attorney Matthew DePerno, who was endorsed by Trump in an unsuccessful bid for the Michigan AG job last year, 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.  Both defendants were arraigned Tuesday afternoon, according to Richard Lynch, the court administrator for Oakland County’s 6th Circuit. In a statement, special prosecutor D.J. 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. Because incumbent Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, was being challenged by DePerno during the 2022 election, her office requested a special prosecutor in the “tabulator tampering investigation” a year ago. The Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council appointed Hilson to the case.  PENCE COMES OUT SWINGING AT TRUMP FOLLOWING JAN 6 INDICTMENT: ‘SHOULD NEVER BE PRESIDENT’ Nessel’s office said Tuesday that the Department of Attorney General to the Michigan Prosecuting Attorney’s Coordinating Council has not been involved in the probe since, and neither Nessel nor the department can comment on the specifics of the prosecution.  “However, the Department trusts in the judicial process and that Prosecutor Hilson is working in the best interest of justice,” her statement added.  In Michigan, five vote tabulators are said to have been 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. 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. “We know the 2020 Presidential Election in Michigan was the most heavily scrutinized election in American history, and every audit and review found the election to be secure, fair, and accurate to the will of the voters. The alleged actions by these defendants, and others, who worked to erode trust in our election system caused undeniable harm to our democracy,” Nessel said in a statement Tuesday.  REPUBLICAN RIVAL CHRIS CHRISTIE TELLS TRUMP TO ‘SELL TRUMP TOWER’ TO HELP COVER REPORTED $40M IN LEGAL FEES In part, she added, “These allegations are incredibly serious and unprecedented. The 2024 presidential election will soon be upon us. The lies espoused by attorneys involved in this matter, and those who worked in concert with them across the nation, wreaked havoc and sowed distrust within our democratic institutions and processes.”  Michigan is just one of at least three states where prosecutors say people breached election systems as Trump and his supporters argued that the 2020 election had been stolen.  DePerno acknowledged in a statement that he was arraigned Tuesday, but his lawyer said he “categorically denies any wrongdoing” and “looks forward to the date when his innocence will be demonstrated in a court of law.” DePerno and Rendon are among nine people in Michigan named thus far by Nessel’s office as having been involved in the scheme. Asked whether the broader investigation continues, Hilson replied in an email to The Associated Press, “Still more to come unrelated to the individuals currently charged.” The charges came the same day Trump was indicted on charges, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S., 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 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. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
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