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Grand Jury Sought In Mich. Lawmaker's Party Switch

DETROIT (AP) - The Democratic leader in the Michigan Senate is asking that a one-person grand jury be appointed to decide whether to charge anyone with crimes stemming from a fellow lawmaker's last-minute switch to the Republican Party.

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing filed a complaint Wednesday in Ingham County Circuit Court in Mason asking for the investigation into Grand Rapids Rep. Roy Schmidt's switch to the GOP just days before the filing deadline for the Aug. 7 primary. Last month, a Kent County prosecutor decided not to file charges in the case.

Schmidt recruited his son's friend to be his Democratic opponent, and Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger worked to have Schmidt make the switch.

"Laws such as perjury, conspiracy to commit perjury, subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice were all potentially violated based solely on the limited evidence we currently have available," Whitmer said. "The question that must now be answered is what further light would a continued investigation shed on this case?"

If Ingham County Circuit judges agree to accept the complaint, one judge would be picked as the one-person grand jury. That judge would have the power to investigate and compel witnesses to testify. The case then can be turned over to the county prosecutor. Democrats believe some of the alleged fraud involving Schmidt and Bolger took place in offices at or near the state Capitol.

Republican Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth released a report in July saying no charges would be filed after Bolger and Schmidt worked to make the party switch and to have 22-year-old Matthew Mojak run in the Democratic primary instead.

Mojak initially was promised $450 and persuaded to change his address and voter registration to the 76th District. Mojak also signed an affidavit claiming he had been a Kent County resident for 22 years. He later withdrew from the race.

"Although this scheme by Rep. Schmidt and Speaker Bolger was clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a `fraud' on the electorate, it was nonetheless legal," Forsyth wrote.

Democratic legislative leaders later called for Bolger to relinquish the speakership.

Schmidt defeated a write-in challenger in the Aug. 7 primary to move on to the November general election.

Whitmer's complaint has no merit, Schmidt's spokesman John Truscott said.

"It's obvious that this is the political silly season and these Democrats have proven it's in full-swing," Truscott said.

Whitmer also alleged that state Attorney General Bill Schuette had a role by being "in communication with Rep. Schmidt as this scheme was becoming known."

Schuette's office on Wednesday called the claim "outrageous."

"When news of Schmidt's party switch broke, Schuette joined a hundred other Republicans in welcoming him to the GOP, plain and simple," spokeswoman Joy Yearout told The Associated Press. "Whitmer's baseless accusations suggesting otherwise are irresponsible, offensive and, frankly, conduct unbecoming for a public official."

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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