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Michigan leaders demand investigation of ‘disturbing’ behavior from top Republican

Michigan leaders demand investigation of ‘disturbing’ behavior from top Republican

By Kyle Kaminski

January 23, 2024

Michigan House Minority Leader Matt Hall was reportedly accused of domestic assault and interfering with a 911 call. He wasn’t charged with any crimes—but a group of Michigan leaders say the incident demands an ‘institutional response.’

MICHIGAN—Several Michigan leaders—including elected officials and advocates for survivors of domestic violence—are urging state lawmakers to investigate one of their Republican colleagues after police reports revealed that he was accused of domestic assault in 2019. 

An incident report filed with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office shows that state House Republican Leader Matt Hall was accused of assaulting his girlfriend and interfering with a 911 call after she tried to call for help. Hall wasn’t charged in the incident—but the reports have raised new questions about whether he’s living up to his ethical responsibilities as a lawmaker.

According to a letter obtained this week by The ‘Gander, a group of 10 Michigan women are now calling on the state House of Representatives to launch a formal investigation into Hall’s “violent and disturbing behavior,” figure out why he wasn’t charged with a crime in 2019, and then determine whether he should be booted from office over the alleged domestic assault.

“Domestic violence is wrong. Plain and simple. As leaders in this State, we have a shared duty to demonstrate that violent behavior towards an intimate partner will never be tolerated—and to build a community where everyone, and especially women, can feel safe,” the letter states.

Specifically, the Michiganders who signed the letter are requesting that the state House Committee on Ethics and Oversight Committee look into whether Hall violated House rules that state lawmakers are to “maintain the integrity and responsibility” of their office, and never engage in any conduct that could “substantially impair[s] the public confidence in the House.”

They’ve also asked lawmakers to determine exactly why prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against Hall, as well as whether Hall “used his position or his political connections” to resolve the case and then suppress the police reports from the public.

“We urge you to pursue a thorough and complete investigation of Leader Hall’s violent actions,” the letter states. “Should you find that Leader Hall violated the House’s Standing Rules, we ask you to vigorously pursue corrective action, up to and including expulsion from the House.”

State Rep. Erin Byrnes, chair of the House Ethics and Oversight Committee, said the request for an investigation is being taken “very seriously” and will be “thoroughly reviewed”—though she said the issue is unlikely to surface at the committee’s next meeting on Thursday.

“It’s a very serious issue and we’re absolutely looking into it,” Byrnes told The ‘Gander on Tuesday afternoon. “We have an open-door policy, and we’re encouraging members of the public to reach out if they have any questions or concerns around this or other issues.”

Among the names signed to the letter: Kimber Bishop Yanke from the Oakland County Task Force on Poverty; Debbie Bohm-Rosenman from Fighting 9 Indivisible; Julie Campbell-Bode from Fems for Democracy; Lara Chelia from Reclaim; Renee Chelian from Northland Family Planning Centers; Mary Ann Fontana from Democrats of South Oakland County; Lori Goldman from Fems for Dems; Gina Keller from Distill Social; Nicole Kessler from the Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools; and Allison Wilcox from the Women of Michigan Action Network. 

Keller, the co-founder and digital director of Distill Social, told The ‘Gander that she sent the letter last week out of a desire for increased “accountability and transparency” in Lansing.

“There have been multiple recent news stories concerning behavior from Minority Leader Hall,” Keller said on Tuesday morning. “This last one almost showed a pattern of behavior. It was quite recent, and he was a state representative at the time of these allegations. They involve partner abuse, and they’re serious, and we believe they warrant a thorough investigation.”

She added: “I don’t think the House or any public institution should have any tolerance for elected officials having any kind of issue with abuse—especially abuse toward women.” 

According to police reports, Hall and his girlfriend drove to Indiana in September 2019 “for some type of sports betting.” Hall reportedly forgot to pack his gambling money and then “became very upset” when he couldn’t find it. And despite his girlfriend’s pleas to slow down and stop driving erratically, Hall allegedly grabbed her phone without enough force to break the screen.

The woman then reportedly used Hall’s phone to dial 911, but Hall ended the call. And when dispatch called back, Hall didn’t answer, according to recent reports from The Daily Beast

Police reports noted that a warrant request would be forwarded to prosecutors for suggested charges of domestic assault, malicious destruction of property, and interfering with a 911 call. 

But when cops interviewed Hall’s girlfriend days later, she reportedly backtracked on her claims—describing the grabbing of her phone as “incidental” and telling officers that Hall “did not intend to hurt her in any way.” Prosecutors ultimately decided against pursuing criminal charges.

When reached by The Daily Beast, the woman who filed the report insisted that any negative reports about Hall aren’t true and that she “wouldn’t be in a relationship with him” if they were. 

Still, research has shown that it’s extremely common for survivors of domestic violence to recant their accusations, blame themselves, or refuse to participate altogether in the prosecution of their abusers—particularly when their alleged abusers wield positions of power and authority.

Reports of “violent rage” toward an intimate partner—including damaging their personal property and interfering with a 911 call—could be considered a violation of House rules, which could lead Hall to be punished via a legislative reprimand or censure, or expulsion, according to the letter. 

Last year, Hall also faced criticism over violent threats that he was accused of making during his time as a student at Western Michigan University in 2001—including when he allegedly threatened another student with gun violence and warned that “the South will rise again.”

Those reports have also created questions over whether Hall is capable of fairly evaluating state legislation that is designed to reduce domestic violence and prevent shootings in Michigan.

In addition to voting against a series of popular gun safety reforms last year, Hall also voted against a new law in Michigan that temporarily prevents those convicted of domestic violence from owning or possessing a gun for a period of eight years after they complete their sentence.

Jeff Timmer, a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, told The Daily Beast that the 2019 incident should still be of concern for voters—even though Hall wasn’t charged.

“This happened when this guy was in the Legislature,” Timmer said. “It’s recent, and it shows a problem with judgment and anger and behavior that I think is definitely something that is legitimate to be examined by the Michigan public, the people who vote for him, the donors who contribute to his campaign committees… This is a guy who could be Speaker of the House.”

Keller said an investigation from the House Ethics and Oversight Committee would also help affirm a broader commitment to “safe and respectful” conduct among state lawmakers. 

“We’ve seen this type of thing happen before. When are we going to say enough? This is just the latest in a long line of allegations,” she said. “It’s time to start taking them seriously … We will leave it the House members to dictate what that accountability will look like.”

Hall was re-elected in 2022 to represent Michigan’s 42nd District, which includes portions of Allegan and Kalamazoo counties, and is expected to run for reelection again this year. 

The primary election is Aug. 6. The general election is Nov. 5. 

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

As community leaders, elected officials, and advocates for survivors of domestic violence, we write to you because of our deep concern regarding the recent report in the Daily Beast about alleged criminal domestic assault by House Minority Leader Matt Hall. 

According to the report, in 2019, Leader Hall flew into a fit of rage towards his then-girlfriend as the couple embarked on a weekend gambling trip to Indiana. Worried about reaching Indiana in time to place bets for the weekend, Leader Hall began driving recklessly. His then-girlfriend asked that he not drive so dangerously, and Leader Hall became “very angry.” When Leader Hall’s ex-girlfriend began filming his erratic behavior, Leader Hall forcefully grabbed away her phone, cracking her screen protector. While his then-girlfriend attempted to call 911 off of another device, Leader Hall hung up her phone and rejected law enforcement’s attempted call-backs. Leader Hall even appears to have lied to law enforcement—texting Calhoun County Dispatch that the 911 call was accidental, when in fact, it had been placed to report domestic violence. Police recommended to Leader Hall’s then-girlfriend that she not stay at home that night—and recommended that Leader Hall be charged with domestic assault, malicious destruction of property, and interfering with a 911 call. 

Leader Hall’s behavior demands an institutional response from the House of Representatives. As Leader Hall was a first-term State Representative at the time of this incident, it is the responsibility of the House Committee on Ethics and Oversight to move swiftly to investigate whether Leader Hall’s violent and disturbing behavior violated House Rules.

The Standing Rules of the House of Representatives state that “A Member shall conduct himself or herself to justify the confidence placed in him or her by the people and shall, by personal example and admonition to colleagues, maintain the integrity and responsibility of his or her office.” The Rules further state that “A Member shall not engage in any conduct that … substantially impair[s] the public confidence in the House.” According to the report, Leader Hall exploded into a violent rage towards an intimate partner, damaged his partner’s personal property, and interfered with a 911 call. Evidence also suggests that Leader Hall intentionally misled law enforcement during this incident by falsely claiming that his partner’s 911 call was accidental. These actions, taken while Leader Hall was already a State Representative, should call into question whether Leader Hall maintained the integrity and responsibility of his office, justified the confidence placed in him by the people of the State of Michigan, or substantially impaired public confidence in the House. An investigation by your committee will help determine whether Leader Hall’s actions violated the Standing Rules in this manner. 

The House Rules further state that “A Member shall adhere to these rules and all applicable laws. Any violation of law or these rules by a Member is subject to the House’s plenary authority to reprimand, censure, or expel its Members. A reprimand, censure, or expulsion is in addition to any potential civil or criminal penalties otherwise provided by law.” While Leader Hall was not formally charged with a crime, police did recommend that he be charged with one. We believe it is incumbent upon the House to determine whether Leader Hall’s actions violated the laws of the State of Michigan. 

Finally, the Rules assert that “A Member shall not use his or her position in any manner to solicit or obtain anything of value for himself or herself…” Serious questions remain as to whether Leader Hall used his position to ensure that the Calhoun County Sheriff’s investigation was resolved in a way that was favorable to him. Your Committee must investigate whether Leader Hall used his position or his political connections to influence the actions of the Calhoun County Sheriff or the Calhoun County Prosecutor. Furthermore, this alleged domestic assault by Leader Hall is only being reported to the public four years after the fact. Your Committee should thoroughly investigate whether Leader Hall used his office or state resources to suppress this information and conceal his dangerous behavior from the public. 

Domestic violence is wrong. Plain and simple. As leaders in this State, we have a shared duty to demonstrate that violent behavior towards an intimate partner will never be tolerated — and to build a community where everyone, and especially women, can feel safe. With those goals in mind, we urge you to pursue a thorough and complete investigation of Leader Hall’s violent actions. Should you find that Leader Hall violated the House’s Standing Rules, we ask you to vigorously pursue corrective action, up to and including expulsion from the House of Representatives. The people of the State of Michigan – and survivors of domestic violence everywhere – deserve nothing less. 

READ MORE: Ads dig up skeletons involving violent threats from Michigan GOP leader

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

This story was updated to include additional information at 4:13 p.m. 

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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