Courser, Gamrat arraigned on felony charges

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Former state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat were arraigned Tuesday on felony charges of misconduct in office stemming from their failed cover-up of an extramarital affair.

Gamrat and Courser faced 54A District Court Judge Hugh B. Clarke Jr. in separate arraignment proceedings at Lansing City Hall, were fingerprinted and released on their own recognizance.

cINDY Gamrat with her attorney Michael Nichols on Tuesday during her arraignment

Courser, a Lapeer-area Republican and bankruptcy attorney, told the judge he’s “a well-known figure” because of the scandal that last year ended the eight-month tenures in the House of Representatives of himself and Gamrat.

“I don’t think I’m a flight risk,” Courser told the judge.

Courser faces four felony charges. They include a misconduct of office felony for trying to get a former House aide to send fellow Republicans an anonymous email making up a story about how Courser was having a homosexual affair to divert attention from his romance with Gamrat.

The other two misconduct in office charges against Courser are for allegedly having House aides forge his signature on proposed legislation and for allegedly lying to the House Business Office during an investigation of his failed cover-up of the affair. He faces a perjury charge for allegedly lying under oath to a special House committee about the signature forgery.

“I didn’t intentionally deceive anyone,” Courser told reporters after the hearing.

The misconduct charges against the tea party leader each carry five-year prison sentences, while the perjury charge has a 15-year jail sentence. Courser predicted he would be exonerated of all charges.

“I don’t have any fear here at all,” he said. “I slept well last night.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, filed charges Friday against Courser and Gamrat Friday and gave them until Wednesday to turn themselves into the Lansing court or face arrest.

Gamrat, R-Plainwell, faces two misconduct felonies for allegedly 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.

Gamrat attorney Michael Nichols said after the arraignment that Schuette is “beating a dead horse.”

“Bill Schuette chose to bring back one of the most tragic cases of Michigan political history,” Nichols said. “He chose to keep beating this dead horse. He chose to resurrect this from the dead, now he gets to prove his case.”

The House required Schuette to conduct an investigation as part of its September expulsion votes on Courser and Gamrat.

Todd Courser

Courser ended up resigning before he could be expelled on Sept. 11, just over a month after The Detroit News first reported on an audio recording that showed Courser orchestrated a cover-up of his affair with Gamrat.

Before his arraignment, Courser said he looked forward to clearing his name.

The charges are “completely baseless, without merit,” he said. “I’ll afford myself, obviously, all of the protections our Constitution allows us that I wasn’t afforded during the expulsion hearings. We’ll look forward to walking through that process and clearing my name.”

Courser said the state is trying to draw attention away from Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis. He said Schuette should be focused on the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak of 87 cases, resulting in nine deaths, in Genesee County during Flint’s use of Flint River water.

“There’s a whole bunch of other things I think really could use the taxpayers’ attention,” said Courser, who was sporting a long beard. “You can really just look to my next-door neighboring county in Genesee. What happened there is just … but you folks are focused on me again.”

Courser suggested Schuette is trying to distract the media from the water contamination crisis in Flint.

“I think that’s where they want you and that’s where you’re supposed to have your attention, and that took the attention, obviously, off the people who have died and who have been suffering in Flint,” he said.

Schuette already has a separate investigation underway probing the Flint water crisis.

Nichols waived the judge’s reading of the charges against Gamrat and entered a not guilty plea. Courser allowed the judge to read the charges aloud.

Courser appeared before Clarke without an attorney.

“I will have counsel. I just don’t have counsel today,” Courser told the judge.

The next hearing in both cases is March 9. Clarke set a preliminary examination for March 15.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood