Another McCotter staffer faces conspiracy charge

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Staffers who forged petition signatures to try to get former U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter on Michigan’s 2012 ballot can be tried on felony conspiracy charges, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled.

The state’s highest court on Tuesday reinstated a conspiracy charge against McCotter’s Deputy District Director Don Yowchuang of Farmington Hills. The court last month reinstated the same charge against District Director Paul Seewald of Livonia.

Yowchuang and Seewald were previously sentenced to probation and community service for their role in the forgery scandal, although the conspiracy charges were dropped. McCotter, R-Livonia, resigned after failing to qualify for the ballot and later sued former staffers.

The Michigan Court of Appeals in 2014 ruled Yowchuang and Seewald could not be charged with “conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner” because neither forging signatures nor submitting them to the Secretary of State constituted a legal act.

“The irony is not lost on us,” Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen wrote in a unanimous decision on April 25 that reversed the Court of Appeals decision in the Seewald case.

“The ‘gist’ of conspiracy ‘lies in the illegal agreement’; once the agreement is formed, the ‘crime is complete,’ ” Larsen wrote.

The Supreme Court waited to rule on Yowchuang until it decided the Seewald case. Conspiracy charges against both men were reinstated and their cases were remanded to Wayne County Circuit Court for consideration.

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