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Report: Joe Gamrat denied he planned threatening texts

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lapeer — The husband of former state Rep. Cindy Gamrat twice denied to a Michigan State Police investigator that he was the source of anonymous text messages his wife and then-Rep. Todd Courser received in May threatening to expose their affair if they didn’t resign from office.

But a two-month investigation concluded Gamrat orchestrated sending the text messages to his wife Cindy and Courser, a Lapeer Republican.

Joe Gamrat was aided by a friend and co-worker named David Horr, who sent the threats on Gamrat’s behalf with a pre-paid phone Gamrat gave Horr money to purchase at a Wal-Mart with phony names, according to a state police report released Monday.

The state police probe also reveals Joe Gamrat placed a recording device in his wife’s sport-utility vehicle in the summer of 2014 — just as he began to suspect she was having an affair with Courser.

Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson decided not to charge Gamrat with a crime because he did not believe the Plainwell man’s efforts to put a stop to his wife’s affair rose to the level of criminal extortion.

“As much as I was frustrated with Joe Gamrat’s dishonesty in his statements to the police … obviously he was trying to stop his wife from having an affair,” Turkelson told The Detroit News.

The prosecutor said he decided he could not charge Horr with extortion and malicious use of a phone because he didn’t think a jury would be sympathetic to Courser as a victim of Joe Gamrat’s scheme to end his wife’s affair.

“I think there’s just a good argument to say it wasn’t done maliciously,” Turkelson said.

The state police’s investigation indicates Joe Gamrat lied to investigators twice and later evaded requests for a follow-up interview. In one interview, Gamrat told police he believed former Courser aide Joshua Cline or GOP political consultant David Forsmark was behind the text messages.

The state police report says search warrants for cell phone records and GPS locations for the prepaid phone helped investigators prove Joe Gamrat was behind the text messages that Courser has claimed caused him to send out his now infamous “controlled burn” email seeking to deflect public attention from the affair and root out an extortion plot.

A search warrant for the prepaid phone led a state police investigator to the Domtar paper mill in Port Huron, where Horr worked as a security guard. Domtar is a client of Joe Gamrat’s job in sales, according to the report.

“I’m kind of freaking out here,” Horr said in an electronic message to Joe Gamrat. “I think I should tell the truth. The GPS took them to work. It will certainly take them to my old address as well as Walmart where it was activated hence video on point of sale.”

How probe was launched

The Detroit News first reported Aug. 7 on Courser’s failed attempt to cover up his affair with Cindy Gamrat with a fictitious email claiming Courser had an affair with a male prostitute.

Courser went to the state police a week later, claiming former aides Cline, Ben Graham and Keith Allard were involved in a “blackmail” ring. The state police report shows all three aides communicated with Joe Gamrat, but it does not support Courser’s accusations that they assisted in sending the text messages.

The investigation unearthed text messages Joe Gamrat sent Courser in late May after the pair say the affair ended.

“You have some serious gall to continue any interaction or connection with Cindy,” Joe Gamrat wrote in a text message to Courser. “... Get the hell out of our lives and stay out.”

Cindy Gamrat and Courser maintained a jointly operated House office and shared staff until The News’ report on their relationship and Courser’s bungled cover-up. The House ousted Gamrat for misconduct on Sept. 11 shortly after Courser resigned.

Courser acknowledged to a state police investigator that he did not personally send out the email on May 20 and 21 as he has publicly stated. As first reported by The News in August, Courser got his friend and business associate Immanuel “Ike” Eickholdt to send the email on his behalf.

Courser only acknowledged Eickholdt’s role after being pressed in an interview with the state police, according to the report.

During the investigation, a state police detective indicated he found evidence that Courser and Cindy Gamrat may have been aware of a global positioning system tracking device being placed on Joe Gamrat’s truck on July 2.

Joe Gamrat discovered a GPS tracking device on his truck on July 25, according to text messages unearthed in the probe.

Eickholdt told the state police investigator that “a few years ago Courser had asked him to place a Spark Nano GPS unit on” the car of the boyfriend of a woman named Melissa Cameneti, according to the report.

“Eickholdt advised that he did place the item and that Courser would track the boyfriend to places Courser believed were drug houses,” the report says. “Eickholdt advised that Courser contacted him in late June 2015 about getting the Spark Nano up and running again and Eickholdt sent Courser the information.”

Eickholdt’s statement to the investigator was confirmed through text messages between Courser and Eickholdt, according to the report.

Text messages between Courser and Cindy Gamrat suggest the two lawmakers were aware that “this device was placed on the truck” on July 2, according to the report.

The investigator’s report also suggests Courser and Cindy Gamrat played a role in tracking Joe Gamrat’s movements with the GPS device, Turkelson said.

“That’s what it seemed to me,” Turkelson said.

Prosecutor: Tracking illegal

The prosecutor said it’s illegal to track someone’s movements with a GPS device planted on their personal vehicle without their knowledge.

“Absolutely, it is not legal,” Turkelson told The Detroit News.

But Turkelson said he’s not inclined to have the state police investigate the GPS tracking device found on Joe Gamrat’s truck because the husband never complained to police about it.

“We really don’t have a complainant,” Turkelson said.

It’s also unclear where the device was attached to Joe Gamrat’s truck, creating jurisdictional issues, Turkelson said.

Joe Gamrat has not returned messages seeking comment since news broke over the weekend that he would not be charged with a crime. Courser did not return a message Monday seeking comment.

Cindy Gamrat said she had not read the report and declined to answer questions about the GPS device on her husband’s truck.

“I’m not going to comment on any of that,” Gamrat told The News.

On Monday, the former lawmaker posted a statement on her Facebook page that referred to her husband’s involvement in the scheme, but later deleted any mention of him.

“When I did not submit to the extortionist’s demands, just as threatened, they followed through with their intent to create the biggest scandal in Michigan’s political history, to smear and remove me and another representative from office,” Gamrat wrote.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood