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Prosecutors charge Trump allies for illegal testing of voting machines

Those charged in Michigan are the latest facing legal consequences for alleged crimes committed after embracing Trump’s election fraud claims.
Voting machines fill the floor for early voting at State Farm Arena.
Posted at 4:01 PM, Aug 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-01 16:01:07-04

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

Lynch also confirmed that Daire Rendon, a former state representative, was also arraigned Tuesday.

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, who has been named by investigators as a "prime instigator" in the case, has previously denied wrongdoing and has accused the state attorney general of "weaponizing her office." DePerno could not be reached immediately for comment by phone on Tuesday.

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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.

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.

That 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.

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.