Election violation charges reinstated against Southfield city clerk Hawkins

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

The Michigan Court of Appeals has reinstated four original criminal charges against Southfield City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins regarding alleged November 2018 election violations.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, a three-judge panel for the Appeals Court sided with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a criminal case involving Hawkins. Four criminal charges against Hawkins were reinstated, and the case with a total of six charges will now proceed in Oakland County Circuit Court.

Hawkins could not be reached for comment Friday and calls to her office were directed to the city’s legal department.

“We really have no comment,” said Southfield City Attorney Dawn King. “This is a state attorney general case and the city has nothing to do with it. This is the first I have heard of that decision.”

Southfield City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins

Hawkins is serving her second elected term as city clerk. King said she had no information that there had been any change in her employment status.

Hawkins is accused of fraudulently altering the Qualified Voter File after the 2018 general election to falsely reflect that previously logged absentee ballots were void due to arriving in envelopes that were not signed by the voters. 

Hawkins has been charged with one count of violating election law by falsifying returns or records, a five-year felony that can include a $1,000 fine; one count of forgery of a public record, a 14-year felony; and one count of misconduct in office, a five-year felony that can include a $10,000 fine.

The other three charges involve the alleged use of a computer to commit the other violations.

There is one count of using a computer to commit a crime connected to violating election law by falsifying returns or records, a seven-year felony; one count of using a computer to commit a crime connected to forgery of a public record, a 10-year felony; and one count of using a computer to commit a crime connected to misconduct in office, a seven-year felony. 

Hawkins filed a motion to invalidate the charges before Oakland Circuit Judge Leo Bowman. The judge granted the request on four of the charges but declined to toss out the counts of misconduct in office and using a computer to commit a crime.

Nessel's office appealed Bowman's decision in the state Court of Appeals. Hawkins meanwhile filed a cross-appeal with the appeals court seeking to dismiss the two remaining felonies against her.

In a 19-page opinion, the judges unanimously rejected all of Hawkins’s arguments and reinstated the counts.

“Election officials must uphold the integrity of their positions. Those who abuse that commitment undermine the very foundation of our democracy," Nessel said following the decision. "While election fraud is rare in our state, our department is committed to prosecuting fraud whenever and wherever it occurs — irrespective of the political party of the perpetrator." 

The trial is scheduled for Oct. 25 before Oakland Circuit Judge Kwame Rowe. Bowman was replaced by Rowe after resigning from the bench last April. 

Hawkins' attorney, Harold Gurewitz, said Friday he and his client were disappointed by the appeals court ruling.

"This has been a long battle and we believe the Oakland Circuit Court had the issues right," said Gurewitz. "We will be reviewing and filing something, possibly with the (State) Supreme Court." 

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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