Mandell Sways Judge: Fraud Charges Against McCotter Staffers Dropped
Mark Mandell took a firm stance against the felony charges brought against Paul Seewald, who previously pleaded guilty in November to nine misdemeanor counts of falsely signing a nominating petition as a circulator. Judge Marie Braxton ultimately determined, however, that “there was no conspiracy involved” – dismissing the felony charges of conspiracy against both Seewald and Don Yowchuang in what’s believed to be the most extensive petition fraud case ever charged by the state.
“Why would they do it? Why would they take such a chance?” Mandell asked, pointing out the nature of the petitions. Rather than plotting to fraudulently doctor petition signatures, the men’s actions possessed a last-minute-like quality: “a series of decisions during panicked moments.”
The felony count could have cost both men up to five years behind bars. Now, while the staffers may not be facing prison time for their actions, their pleas for misdemeanor charges have resulted in repercussions: Seewald has been sentenced to two years of probation while Yowchuang will serve three. Both ex-staffers will also be required to fulfill countless hours of community service.
Attorney General Bill Schuette responded to the sentencing: “The message here is very clear – if you break the law, there are consequences. We’ll review the dismissal of the conspiracy charge and make a decision about the appeal.”
Mandell, however, said that “the attorney general overreached by charging low-level staffers with felonies to look tough on election law. The fact is, Mr. Seewald is not guilty of a felony.” Seewald, while thankful for the community support that he has received, said that he now must look to the future in an attempt to rebuild a life – and image – left damaged by the scandal.