Schuette refiles felony charge against ex-Rep. Courser

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Attorney General Bill Schuette on Wednesday refiled a felony charge against former state Rep. Todd Courser in Lapeer County after a judge in Ingham County ruled the alleged crime didn’t take place in his jurisdiction.

Schuette charged Courser with a common law felony for allegedly soliciting the help of a state House of Representatives aide in May 2015 “to send out a false email for public dissemination in order to cover up an extra-martial affair,” according to the charging document.

Ingham County District Court Judge Hugh B. Clarke Jr. tossed an original charge of misconduct in office last month, ruling Courser’s solicitation for help from aide Ben Graham in covering up an affair with then-Rep. Cindy Gamrat took place in Lapeer County and out of his jurisdiction.

Schuette refiled the charge in Lapeer County “per comments made by” the judge, spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said.

On June 14, Clarke ordered Courser to stand trial on two separate felony charges of allegedly ordering House staff to forge his signature on proposed legislation and then lying about it to a House committee.

Clarke tossed out two felony charges against Gamrat, ruling Schuette’s office presented insufficient evidence for the Plainwell Republican to stand trial on misconduct charges related to her and Courser’s jointly-operated House office.

Schuette’s renewed charge against Courser centers around the Lapeer area Republican’s failed attempt to cover up his affair with Gamrat by distributing a fictional email to fellow Republicans claiming he was caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a prominent Lansing nightclub.

Graham secretly recorded a meeting with Courser on May 19, 2015, in which the lawmaker asked Graham repeatedly to help him send the email. Courser called the email a “controlled burn” designed to “inoculate the herd” against rumors of his affair with Gamrat.

Courser also instructed Graham to claim to be sick the next day while sending out the email, according to the recording. Graham ultimately refused to send the email, and Courser seven weeks later fired him without explanation.

House Republicans used the recording to force Courser to resign from office and expel Gamrat from the House in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2015.

Schuette’s criminal charges against Courser and Gamrat were the result of a Michigan State Police investigation that the House ordered after expelling Gamrat.

Courser, who is running for Lapeer County prosecutor in the Aug. 2 primary, attacked Schuette in a Facebook post Wednesday morning, hours before the Attorney General’s office announced the renewed felony charge.

“All that Botox has gone to SCHUETTE's head,” Courser wrote. “I was innocent when they forced me out last year; they did so without any showing (evidence) of criminality and without any Constitutional protections.

“Schuette knows this and is acting to protect himself and those in charge of the House. I am innocent today and I’ll be found innocent at trial — it’s a witch hunt by those who control the levers of power on corrupt government.”

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

Twitter: @ChadLivengood