Judge halts Courser subpoena bid aimed at bribe check
Lansing – An Ingham County judge issued a temporary stay Monday on subpoenas requested by former state Rep. Todd Courser’s attorney — including one meant to check if Courser’s last judge had been bribed.
Courser’s attorney, Matthew DePerno, did not present any evidence suggesting or proving any bribery. But he asked the court for access to cellphone records and documents from the attorney general’s office in an attempt to prove improper communications with Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette and financial information to see whether Collette had been bribed.
“Yeah, we’re looking to see if there’s any evidence that he was bribed in this case,” DePerno told Ingham County Circuit Judge James Jamo on Monday.
Jamo questioned why the requested information would aid DePerno’s defense of a perjury charge against Courser before issuing the stay.
Collette said in a phone call Monday afternoon that DePerno has accused him of numerous and baseless “horrible allegations.”
“I’ve been here 39 years, and I’ve never taken a bribe in my life,” the judge said.
Collette said he has filed a complaint with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission over DePerno’s accusations and actions.
Jamo’s ruling is the latest wrinkle in the case against Courser, a Lapeer area Republican who is accused of lying under oath during a legislative hearing about misconduct and misuse of state resources allegations stemming from his attempted cover-up of an extramarital affair with former state Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell.
Monday’s hearing marked two years since The Detroit News first published audio recordings that showed Courser asking a staffer to help him send a “false flag” email in which the legislator accused himself of having sex with a male prostitute outside a Lansing night club.
The email was meant to be “a complete smear campaign” that would cast doubt on rumors that Courser was having an affair with fellow tea party conservative Gamrat but instead set off a series of events that led to Courser’s resignation from the Legislature in September 2015, about an hour before Gamrat’s expulsion.
DePerno said after Monday’s hearing he is not alleging that Collette was bribed. But he said he wants to check for any unusually large deposits into his account.
“We’re not alleging anything at this point,” he said.
Other subpoena requests from DePerno are meant to show whether Collette communicated with state attorneys without him being present and whether they used improperly obtained information to build a case against Courser.
Collette forced Courser to go through a mental competency exam before “disqualifying” himself from the case in April. He decided he could no longer be impartial, citing frustration in dealing with DePerno.
Collette said DePerno also requested subpoenas for his staff’s records, staff bank account information as well as circuit and district court phone call data for the past six months.
“I don’t know where this guy’s coming from but there’s a problem,” the judge said. “Something’s gotta be done.”
Collette said DePerno could potentially be “held in criminal contempt by Jamo; he can be sanctioned. ... With all these costs and expenses he could conceivably be disbarred.”
Other subpoenas requested by DePerno are meant to probe whether the Attorney General’s Office had gathered information improperly during its criminal investigation into Courser and check for ex-parte communications.
Jamo said the information would be relevant if DePerno had evidence that state attorneys were using information that was obtained improperly. But the judge said DePerno did not have that evidence.
State attorneys called it a “fishing expedition” and “outrageous,” and asked for sanctions against DePerno for “salacious” mischaracterizations.
Attorney Grievance Commission administrator Alan Gershel was not available Monday for comment.