Michigan Prosecutors Charge Trump Allies in Felonies Involving Voting Machines, Illegal ‘Testing’

Matthew DePerno, Republican candidate for Michigan attorney general, speaks during a rally at the Michigan state Capitol, Oct. 12, 2021, in Lansing. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

By Associated Press

August 1, 2023

LANSING—A former Republican attorney general candidate and another supporter of former President Donald Trump have been criminally charged in Michigan in connection with accessing and tampering with voting machines after the 2020 election, according to court records.

Matthew DePerno, a Republican lawyer who was endorsed by Trump in an unsuccessful run for Michigan attorney general last year, was charged with undue possession of a voting machine and conspiracy, according to Oakland County court records.

Daire Rendon, a former Republican state representative, was charged with conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine and false pretenses. A lawyer listed on court documents as representing Rendon could not be immediately reached for comment by phone.

Both were arraigned remotely Tuesday afternoon, according to Richard Lynch, the court administrator for Oakland County’s 6th Circuit.

A special prosecutor, D.J. Hilson, has been reviewing the investigation and considering charges since September. He convened a grand jury in March to determine whether criminal indictments should be issued, according to court documents.

In a statement, Hilson said the charges were authorized by “an independent citizens grand jury,” and that his office did not make any recommendations.

Those charged in Michigan are the latest facing legal consequences for alleged crimes committed after embracing Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

The charges come as the former president is investigated for election interference in Georgia. Separately, Trump said in mid-July that he is a target of a federal investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

DePerno, whose name was incorrectly listed as “DeParno,” in court records, was named as a “prime instigator” in the case. He could not be reached by phone immediately for comment but has previously denied wrongdoing and has accused the state attorney general of “weaponizing her office.”

Five vote tabulators were taken from three counties in Michigan to a hotel room, according to documents released last year by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office. Investigators found that the tabulators were broken into and “tests” were performed on the equipment. They said that DePerno was there.

Nine individuals, including DePerno and Rendon, were named by Nessel’s office as having been involved in the scheme.

When asked whether the broader investigation continues, Hilson, the special prosecutor said in an email “Still more to come unrelated to the individuals currently charged.”

Because Nessel ran against DePerno in 2022, she secured a special prosecutor who wouldn’t have a conflict of interest in the case and could operate independently.

Charges were slow to come in the case, in part because prosecutors wanted clarification from a judge about what constitutes illegal possession of a voting machine. Some of the defendants argued that local clerks gave them permission to take the machines.

In July, a state judge ruled that it’s a felony to take a machine without a court order or permission directly from the Secretary of State’s office.

That felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

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