Ex-State Reps. Courser, Gamrat to face felony charges

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
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Lansing — Attorney General Bill Schuette said Friday warrants have been issued for the arrest of former state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat on felony charges of misconduct in office related to their failed attempts to cover up an extramarital affair that rocked the Capitol last summer.

If convicted on all counts, Courser would face a maximum of 30 years in prison. If found guilty, Gamrat could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Courser, a Lapeer-area Republican, will face four felony charges, Schuette said. They include:

■ A perjury charge for lying under oath while testifying before a special House committee about letting an aide forge his signature on a bill he wanted to file before other representatives could.

“Only legislators sign legislative proposals,” said Schuette, a former state senator.

■ Three counts of misconduct in office for allegedly lying to the House Business Office, which investigated the two lawmakers; instructing his staff to forge his signature on bills; and asking House aide Ben Graham to send a fake email to Republicans across the state, which Graham refused to do.

“When you lie under oath, those are ingredients for charges of perjury,” Schuette told reporters.

Courser’s perjury charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison and there is up to five years for each charge of misconduct in office, Schuette said.

Gamrat, R-Plainwell, will be charged with two counts of misconduct in office, punishable by up to five years in prison or a $10,000 fine for each charge, Schuette said.

Gamrat’s misconduct charges are for giving false information to the House Business Office and instructing a staff member to forge her signature to speed up the filing of draft legislation, Schuette said.

“This is our system of democracy,” Schuette told reporters. “And when you hold the public trust, and there’s questions of misconduct in office and that you lied under oath, I think those are serious. Those are real.”

Courser and Gamrat have until Wednesday to turn themselves in to Ingham County District Court in Lansing or face arrest, Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said.

Gamrat attorney Mike Nichols said Friday he’s reviewing the charges.

“I think Bill Schuette expects she doesn’t any fight left,” Nichols told The Detroit News. “I think they’re probably underestimating Cindy Gamrat.”

Courser did not return messages Friday seeking comment. He posted a statement Saturday on his Facebook page denying Schuette's charges, claiming they were "political in nature and have come at a time to take heat off the misconduct of others."

"After months and months of investigation, spending tens of thousands of your dollars, and claiming that Todd Courser misused taxpayer funds, Attorney General Schuette has charged him with a nonsensical claim of perjury and three counts of misconduct under a rarely used and vague 'catchall' statute," Courser's statement said.

The House investigation was the result of an Aug. 7, 2015, Detroit News story that found that Courser planned the distribution of a fictional email alleging he had sex with a male prostitute in a bid to conceal his relationship with Gamrat.

Graham recorded a meeting with Courser plotting the distribution of the email and gave the audio recordings to The Detroit News after Courser and Gamrat fired him and fellow aide Keith Allard in early July 2015.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, Gamrat became the fourth legislator in state history to be expelled from office for her misconduct. Courser resigned to avoid an expulsion vote.

“Reps. Courser and Gamrat, sadly, failed to serve their constituents in an honorable fashion,” Schuette said.

At the insistence of House Democrats, the Republican-controlled House in September asked Schuette and the Michigan State Police to launch a criminal investigation into Courser and Gamrat’s conduct when the chamber considered expulsion for both lawmakers.

“When House Speaker Kevin Cotter and House Republicans tried to sweep Courser and Gamrat’s misconduct under the rug by expelling them from the House without a criminal investigation, House Democrats boldly insisted that the attorney general and the Michigan State Police investigate criminal wrongdoing as part of the expulsion,” House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said in a Friday statement.

An Ingham County District Court judge issued warrants for Courser’s and Gamrat’s arrests Friday morning, which delayed Schuette’s 11 a.m. scheduled news conference announcing the charges by more than an hour.

“We’re saying that justice can and will be delivered and that there’s consequences to violating the law,” Schuette said. “And no one’s beyond the reach of the law.”

Courser and Gamrat face other legal troubles.

Schuette said he will refer to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson “potential evidence of campaign finance violations involving doing political work on state time.”

The House’s expulsion charges included the use of House employees by Courser and Gamrat for political tasks.

Schuette also said he will notify the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission of the charges against Courser, a Lapeer attorney.

“They will potentially review the status of his law license as this case proceeds through the judicial system,” the attorney general said.

Allard and Graham are suing the pair in Ingham County Circuit Court for creating a hostile work environment through the Capitol romance. They also contend Courser slandered their characters when he claimed they were part of an attempt to “blackmail” the two lawmakers into resigning from office.

A separate state police investigation concluded Gamrat’s estranged husband, Joe Gamrat, had a friend send his wife and Courser anonymous text messages threatening to expose their affair. The Lapeer County prosecutor declined to charge Joe Gamrat and his friend in the matter, citing the husband’s attempt to break up his wife’s relationship with Courser.

Courser's statement Saturday alluded to the lack of criminal charges against Joe Gamrat.

"Attorney General Schuette says, "No one is beyond the reach of the law"; yet there have been no charges brought against the proper parties who engaged in extortion, wiretapping, stalking, conspiracy, and multiple other felonies," Courser's statement said. "These charges come against Todd Courser after the Michigan State Police investigation has now shown that the extortion texts were genuine."

Allard and Graham also are suing the Michigan House of Representatives in a federal whistle-blower case, claiming speaker Cotter and his staff failed to protect them from wrongful termination by Courser and Gamrat in an attempt to cover up the affair.

Schuette said the state’s investigation found Cotter did nothing wrong.

“I think the speaker handled it very well,” said Schuette, a Midland Republican.

Graham and Allard issued a joint statement Friday saying their former bosses “must be held accountable for their actions.”

“We have been trying for more than a year to bring the illegal and unethical actions of these elected officials to light,” the statement said. “We were fired and publicly humiliated for trying to do the right thing.”


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