GOP blogger gets 30 days in jail for election fraud

Jonathan Oosting

West Michigan politics blogger and Republican activist Brandon Hall is heading to jail for election law fraud after forging signatures on a candidate petition in 2012.

Ottawa Circuit Judge Ed Post on Tuesday sentenced Hall to 30 days in county jail, 18 months probation, 60 hours community service and $3,105 in fines and legal costs, according to a court spokesperson. He was taken into custody immediately.

Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, confirmed the details but declined further comment.

“The verdict and sentence pretty much speak for themselves here,” Bitely said.

A jury unanimously convicted Hall last month following a years-long legal battle he took all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. Hall faced up to five years in prison for falsifying signatures on 2012 nominating petitions for Ottawa County judicial candidate Chris Houghtaling.

Hall’s attorney, Anna C. White of the Hann Persinger law firm, declined comment on Tuesday’s sentence.

Schuette’s office initially charged Hall with felony forgery, but Hall and his attorney argued he could only be prosecuted under a more recent and specific misdemeanor statute. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Hall in June, allowing felony prosecution to proceed under a state law prohibiting forgery with the intent to defraud.

Hall had “attempted to disguise his handwriting by using different colored pens and writing with his right and left hands,” according to the Supreme Court ruling. “Defendant continued to sign false nominator signatures the next day while the candidate drove defendant to Lansing.”

Hall, who ran for the state House this year but lost in the Republican primary, is perhaps best known for writing the West Michigan Politics blog.

He was a prominent volunteer for President-elect Donald Trump’s Michigan campaign but was not a paid staffer. Tuesday’s sentence means he will likely be behind bars when Trump is inaugurated Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.