A second defendant accused in a fake elector scheme in Michigan is looking for criminal charges to be thrown out after the state attorney general said that the group of 16 Republicans "genuinely" believed former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
The 16 Michigan Republicans are facing eight criminal charges, including forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery. Investigators say the group met following the 2020 election and signed a document falsely stating they were Michigan's "duly elected and qualified electors."
President Joe Biden won the state by nearly 155,000 votes, a result that was confirmed by a GOP-led state Senate investigation in 2021.
Two defendants in the case are now asking for charges to be thrown out after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told a liberal group during a Sept. 18 virtual event that the false electors had been "brainwashed" and "genuinely" believed Trump won in Michigan.
"They legit believe that," said Nessel, a Democrat who announced criminal charges in the fake elector scheme in July.
Nessel also said in the video that Ingham County — where the hearings will be held and the jury will be selected from — is a "a very, very Democratic-leaning county."
Kevin Kijewski, an attorney for the defendant Clifford Frost, said in a motion to dismiss filed Tuesday that Nessel's comments are an "explicit and clear admission" that there wasn't intent to defraud. Kijewski told The Associated Press that he expected the motion to be taken up at a previously scheduled Oct. 6 hearing.
An attorney for another accused fake elector, Mari-Ann Henry, also filed a motion to dismiss Tuesday and said the attorney general's comment should "nullify the government's entire case."
Danny Wimmer, a spokesperson for Nessel's office, said in response to a request for comment that the office "will respond to the motion in our filings with the Court."
John Freeman, a former federal prosecutor who is now representing the defendant Marian Sheridan, told AP that Nessel's comments left him "stunned" and called them "a gift for my client." He said he still evaluating whether to file a motion to dismiss the charges.
The intent behind the defendants' actions will be at the center of the case, said Tom Leonard, a former Michigan assistant attorney general He was also the Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general in 2018, losing to Nessel.
"I don't think there's any argument that the action was there. The question is: What did these defendants intend to do when they showed up and signed those documents?" Leonard said. "Nessel, the state's chief law enforcement officer who put that pen to paper charging these defendants, has now openly said that the intent was not there."
All 16 defendants have pleaded not guilty. Henry and several others, including former Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock, are scheduled to appear for a preliminary examination hearing on Oct. 12.
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