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Court: GOP House candidate can face forgery charges

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
  • The Michigan Supreme Court reinstated four-year-old felony forgery charges against a Grand Haven man
  • Brandon Hall allegedly falsified signatures on nominating petitions for a county judicial candidate
  • Hall is a Republican candidate in the 89th Michigan House district
  • Court documents indicate Hall admitted to signing multiple names on 2012 nominating petitions

Lansing — The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated four-year-old felony forgery charges against a Grand Haven man now running for the state House of Representatives.

Brandon Hall, a Republican candidate in the 89th House district and author of the West Michigan Politics Blog, allegedly falsified signatures on nominating petitions in 2012 to help an Ottawa County judicial candidate qualify for the ballot.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office initially charged Hall with 10 counts of felony forgery — one for each falsified nominating petition — but Hall and his attorney argued he could only be prosecuted under a more recent and specific misdemeanor statute.

The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with Hall, but the Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling and sent the case back to the 58th District Court for further proceedings.

“When statutory crimes are distinct, as here, a prosecutor does not abuse his discretion by charging the greater offense,” Chief Justice Bob Young wrote in the unanimous opinion. “If proved, the facts as alleged in this case establish that defendant violated both statutes.”

In an email to The Detroit News, Hall called the decision “obviously disappointing” after lower courts had previously ruled in his favor but said he maintains “an immense amount of respect” for the state Supreme Court.

“I am looking forward to meeting with my legal counsel next week to consider all options, including appealing in Federal Court,” Hall said.

“After four years, I think we should get the case back to Ottawa County and work with Attorney General Schuette’s office to end this, as (Chief District Judge Bradley) Knoll suggested nearly three years ago.”

Hall is one of three Republicans running to replace term-limited state Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, in the heavily GOP district. The others are Jim Lilly and Tracy Stille-Mulligan. Tim Meyer is the only Democrat in the race.

Court documents indicate Hall admitted to signing multiple names on 2012 nominating petitions for Chris Houghtaling of Grand Haven, who was running for Ottawa County District Court judge but failed to make the ballot because of invalid signatures.

“He attempted to disguise his handwriting by using different colored pens and writing with his right and left hands,” according to a case description in the Supreme Court ruling.

“Defendant continued to sign false nominator signatures the next day while the candidate drove defendant to Lansing.”

joosting@detroitnews.com

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