Courser’s hearing ends after judge ejects lawyer

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Mason — A hearing stemming from a perjury charge against former state Rep. Todd Courser ended after a few minutes Wednesday when an Ingham County judge told Courser’s lawyer to leave the courtroom over the attorney’s “offensive” comments.

Lawyer Matthew DePerno had filed a motion to disqualify Ingham Circuit Judge William Collette because DePerno alleged that the judge would not be objective. The judge earlier this month required the Lapeer-area Republican to undergo an exam at the state Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

The judge rejected the motion. DePerno also asked for the case to be dismissed, which Collette indicated he wouldn’t decide until the exam is done.

“You know something? I want you to leave the courtroom right now,” Collette told DePerno. “I find most of your comments offensive, and I want you to leave.”

DePerno stood there for a few minutes and was asked more questions before Collette adjourned the proceedings. Courser's exam at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry is set for Thursday.

Courser is accused of lying under oath during a legislative hearing prompted by the failed cover-up of an extramarital affair with former Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell. He is being prosecuted by the office of Attorney General Bill Schuette, a fellow Republican.

Before the hearing ended, the judge indicated why he asked for the mental competency exam.

“I was concerned about a number of things that were going on with Mr. Courser and have gone on in the past for his own sake,” Collette said, but did not go into detail.

After the hearing, DePerno said he thought the motion for a competency exam was baseless and declined to comment on Collette’s statements for him to leave the courtroom.

The charges stem from a political scandal that erupted in August 2015. Audio recordings first obtained by The Detroit News showed that Courser asked a staffer to help him send a false email accusing Courser of having sex with a male prostitute behind a prominent Lansing nightclub, an apparent attempt to discredit rumors of his affair with Gamrat.

Courser resigned from office in September 2015 about an hour before Gamrat was expelled for misuse of taxpayer resources.

The state House settled with Keith Allard and Ben Graham — former staffers for Courser and Gamrat — in October, agreeing to pay a total of $515,000 to the former aides and their attorneys.

Courser dropped a broad federal lawsuit last month against the state House and others, including a former Detroit News reporter. Courser had alleged conspiracy to oust him from office.