LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan judge is expected to decide Friday morning whether to drop charges against two defendants accused of participating in a fake elector scheme after the state attorney general said the group was “brainwashed” into believing former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
The defendants, Clifford Frost and Mari-Ann Henry, are two of 16 Michigan Republicans who investigators say met following the 2020 election and signed a document falsely stating they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified electors.” Each of the 16 faces eight criminal charges, including multiple counts of forgery.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, however, may have derailed the case by saying during a virtual event last month that the electors “legit believe” Trump won the election.
“Every single charge requires the government to prove they did this with the intent to defraud,” said Matthew Schneider, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit. “If the attorney general is saying the group didn’t really intend to do this, because they genuinely believed they were the electors, there’s a strong argument the prosecution can’t prove a necessary element.”
President Joe Biden won Michigan by nearly 155,000 votes, a result confirmed by a GOP-led state Senate investigation in 2021.
Michigan is one of seven states where false Electoral College certificates were submitted declaring Trump the winner despite the confirmation. But it’s the only state where the accused false electors face criminal charges.
Nessel, a Democrat, first brought the charges in July. At a Sept. 18 virtual event organized by liberal groups, Nessel said the group would never plea guilty because they “genuinely believe” Trump won the election.
“These are people who have been brainwashed,” Nessel said, adding that the case would be tried in a county that is “very, very Democratic-leaning.”
In a motion to dismiss charges, Frost’s attorney, Kevin Kijewski, argues Nessel’s comments are an “explicit and clear admission” there was not a criminal intent behind the actions, which is required for all eight of the charges.
Henry’s attorney, George McAvoy Brown, said if the defendants believed Trump won the election, as Nessel stated, then their alleged actions would not have been performed with the “intent to cheat or deceive” anybody.
Nessel’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.
Another defendant, Amy Facchinello, has claimed the charges stem from conduct that came “at the direction” of then-President Trump and other federal officers, according to a court filing.
The Ingham County District Court judge, Kristen Simmons, is expected to hear arguments from both sides Friday before making a decision. Simmons is overseeing the cases of the 16 defendants, who all have pleaded not guilty.
Henry and several others, including former Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, are scheduled to appear for a preliminary examination hearing on Oct. 12.