Search warrant issued for phone records in Courser case

Candice Williams, and Chad Livengood

Lansing — A search warrant has been issued ordering AT&T Wireless to release records for a prepaid phone that former state Rep. Todd Courser said was used to allegedly “blackmail” him in his extramarital affair with former Rep. Cindy Gamrat.

Magistrate Greg Wise of the 71A District Court in Lapeer told The Detroit News on Thursday that he issued the search warrant Wednesday as part of an Michigan State Police investigation.

“They are asking for all sorts of information,” Wise said. “Where (the phone) was purchased, what time it was purchased, logs of IP addresses the phone may have used, any phone number it may have called, phone numbers that may have called it. I have no idea if AT&T will have this information. They’re looking for anything they can find.”

Wise said the search warrant request was his only contact with detectives. He said state police will have to file a return with the information they receive.

“I have no idea when that might occur,” Wise said.

Courser has released text messages from a (313) 421-5345 phone number that he said he and his brother, Dan, received between May 21 and Aug. 7 — the day The Detroit News first reported on Courser’s phony email alleging he was caught having sex with a man behind a Lansing nightclub. The phone number is disconnected.

News of the search warrant being executed came hours before Courser abruptly resigned from the Michigan House of Representatives early Friday morning and Gamrat, R-Plainwell, was expelled for misconduct surrounding their affair.

As part of Gamrat’s expulsion, the House passed a separate resolution early Friday morning calling on the State Police to separately investigate Courser and Gamrat’s misconduct and misuse of taxpayer resources.

Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement expressing his support for the investigation.

“This matter needs to be resolved and an investigation by MSP will provide even further clarity,” Snyder said. “I hope this investigation helps bring closure to the issue for all involved.”

The State Police intends to open a criminal investigation into Courser and Gamrat’s conduct, spokeswoman Shanon Banner said Friday.

Shortly before the House began debating Courser’s situation Thursday afternoon, the embattled Lapeer Republican told reporters that law enforcement authorities had informed him about the search warrant for records related to the investigation.

“I just spoke with law enforcement moments ago and they have actually executed a warrant on the extortionist plot,” Courser told reporters.

Courser has said he sent fellow Republicans the infamous “controlled burn” email as part of an effort to root out a “ring” of individuals threatening to expose he and Gamrat’s liaisons if they didn’t resign.

Courser said he did not consider the search warrant as a Hail Mary just as his colleagues began deliberating on whether he should remain in office.

“No, no, not at all. I really think it’s in God’s hands ...” he said. “I just think that there’s a lot more at play and sort of rushing to judgment (by my colleagues) in this regard ... I think is the wrong step for the public and I think it’s also the wrong step to try and bring closure to this chapter.”

Banner would not say whether a search warrant had been sought.

“With an ongoing investigation, we would not comment on what investigative measures we are pursuing,” Banner told The News. “I’m comfortable saying it’s not an arrest warrant, but cannot provide details beyond that.”

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office said Friday that it already had “opened an investigation of the Courser-Gamrat matter. Additionally, the attorney general has discussed this issue with Col. Kriste Etue of the Michigan State Police. We will work with the MSP and conduct a joint investigation, which will be complete and thorough, without fear or favor.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

Detroit News Staff Writer Gary Heinlein contributed.