Roy Schmidt (Courtesy royschmidt.org)
LANSING (Detroit Free Press) - Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been named to conduct a one-person grand jury investigation into the fake candidate controversy in Grand Rapids, a court official said today.
Rhonda Swayze, deputy administrator of the general trial division of Ingham County Circuit Court, said an order appointing the grand jury was signed Monday by Chief Circuit Judge Janelle Lawless.
All nine Ingham judges were to vote on appointing a grand jury after Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer and Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, requested the grand jury investigation last week. Aquilina was chosen by blind draw.
State Rep. Roy Schmidt, R-Grand Rapids, amid extensive consultation with Speaker Jase Bolger, recruited a fake Democratic candidate to face Schmidt as he jumped from the Democratic to the Republican party on May 15, just ahead of that day's filing deadline for the Aug. 7 primary.
Whitmer said "it's a sad day in our state's history that this step would have to be taken," but "I am thankful that the court's decision will result in a full, fair and impartial investigation.
"That's all I've ever asked for and it's what the public deserves," she said.
Brewer had no immediate comment.
The request for the grand jury probe followed reports in the Free Press that Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth ended a Michigan State Police investigation July 17 while a detective was still investigating and had obtained warrants for cell phone and e-mail records he had not yet executed. An affidavit released under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act showed MSP Det. Sgt. Robert Davis believed Schmidt and Bolger may have conspired to commit perjury in the recruitment of fake Democratic candidate Matt Mojzak.
Mojzak, a 22-year-old acquaintance of Schmidt's son Ryan, did not live in Schmidt's Grand Rapids district but filed an affidavit of candidacy that falsely stated he was a qualified voter there, records show.
Forsyth said the investigation was closed by mutual agreement with the Michigan State Police because Forsyth believed there would not be evidence to prosecute a crime, even if the investigation continued and the warrants were executed. He said he thought it was more important to get the facts out prior to the Aug. 7 primary so voters in Grand Rapids would know Schmidt and Bolger had fraudulently tried to set Schmidt up against a patsy candidate.
Bolger had written the judges Monday asking them to reject the request. He said the incident had been thoroughly investigated and Forsyth determined no crimes had been committed. Bolger said a one-person grand jury would amount to a political "wild goose chase."
Details on how the probe will work and what if any law enforcement agency will be involved, were not immediately available.
Aquilina was a long-time aide to Sen. John Kelly, a Detroit Democrat. She was elected to the Ingham bench in 2009 and had previously served four years in the district court.
In 2010, Judge Edward Sosnick of the Oakland County Circuit Court was appointed to conduct a one-man grand jury investigation into a fake tea party scandal. Two Oakland County Democratic operatives were convicted of fraud-related charges after fake candidates were put on the ballot in an effort to draw votes away from Democratic candidates.
Brewer, the state Democratic chairman, testified before that grand jury.