Election Fraud – Michigan v. Paul Seewald

In 2012, Paul Seewald, who at the time was a congressional aide and district director for ex-U.S. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, was charged with nine counts of falsely signing nominating petitions after he and other members of the congressman’s campaign were accused of trying to get McCotter’s name on the ballot in his reelection efforts by submitting bogus petition information.

The nine counts were misdemeanors, however Seewald was also charged with a single count of conspiring to commit a legal act in an illegal manner, which is a felony. Seewald was the subject of a criminal investigation after it was alleged that he signed a petition as a circulator, although court documents reveal the petition was not circulated.

Seewald and Don Yowchuang, an alleged co-conspirator who also worked in the district office of the former congressman during the 2012 reelection campaign, were partially responsible for collecting a minimum of 1,000 valid voter signatures to be submitted by McCotter so that the Secretary of State could certify his placement on the ballot. One day prior to the nominating petitions due date, Seewald and Yowchuang realized that some of the petitions remained unsigned by their circulator. Ultimately, although the two men did not circulate the petitions themselves, they agreed to sign the petitions that had not been signed as circulators.

After Seewald filed a motion to dismiss the felony charge, the motion was granted and the felony charge against him dismissed, the court finding that there had been no conspiracy to commit a legal act. In August of 2014, the Court of Appeals found that prosecutors in the case couldn’t provide an agreement to commit a legal act. However, on April 25th of this year, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the appeals court’s judgment and affirmed the decision of the district court that adequate evidence was presented. The felony charge against Seewald was reinstated, and the case remanded to the Wayne Circuit Court.

McCotter’s campaign was accused of cutting and pasting the signatures of voters who signed petitions in elections prior to the 2012 race. Seewald, along with several others, allegedly signed petitions as the circulator without gathering names. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and two years probation after pleading guilty to nine counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as circulator.

In the end, the Supreme Court held that Seewald’s conduct was sufficient for probable cause for trial on the charge that his conduct was enough to warrant a bind over on a charge of conspiring to commit a legal act in an illegal manner, although Seewald claimed that his actions were unlawful, and that he never agreed to commit a legal act. Instead, he claims that he should have been set free because he conspired to commit an illegal act illegally, which would result in double illegality. The Supreme Court found that Seewald’s alleged conduct provided cause for trial on the charge after reviewing the conspiracy statute. The case has been remanded to Wayne Circuit Court for reinstatement after the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment.

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