CBSN

Fate of Michigan lawmakers in sex scandal decided

Now former Michigan Rep. Todd Courser and now former Michigan Rep. Cindy Gamrat

Last Updated Sep 11, 2015 7:30 AM EDT

LANSING, Mich. -- One of two socially conservative Michigan lawmakers embroiled in scandal over their extramarital affair resigned early Friday morning rather than face possible -- perhaps likely expulsion.

Republican Rep. Todd Courser announced his resignation, saying it was effective immediately. He was escorted out of the chamber.

His decision came amid a marathon session in the House over whether he and Rep. Cindy Gamrat should stay in their jobs.

Shortly after Courser quit, the House expelled Gamrat by a vote of 91 to 12, with 5 members abstaining. Seventy-three votes were needed.

She was then escorted from the chamber.

House leaders said a police investigation into the two lawmakers is an appropriate next step.

Republican Speaker Kevin Cotter said in a statement Friday that the "serious findings of the House Business Office" are why the House wanted further investigation into the "behavior and antics of the representatives." Michigan State Police plan to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing.

On Thursday, a special six-member House disciplinary committee recommended the expulsion of both lawmakers. But the full chamber had been deadlocked for hours over what discipline Courser should receive.

Sixty-seven members supported expelling him, six short of the two-thirds supermajority needed under the state constitution. But more than two dozen minority Democrats and one Republican abstained from voting and criticized the process.

Courser, 43, of Lapeer, has admitted sending an "outlandish" phony email to GOP activists and others in May claiming he was caught with a male prostitute. The email was intended to make his affair with the 42-year-old Gamrat appear less believable if it were exposed by an anonymous blackmailer who Courser said had demanded his resignation.

The self-smear email called Courser a "bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant" and "gun toting Bible thumping ... freak" and Gamrat a "tramp."

Gamrat has said she discussed the plot with Courser but did not know the email's sexually explicit content before it was sent.

Both have apologized. Courser had previously said he would not resign.

No decision has been made on Gamrat's discipline. It wasn't clear whether the lawmakers would immediately take up a vote on her status.

Gamrat was refusing to resign and insisting on a vote, reports CBS Kalamazoo, Michigan affiliate WWMT-TV.

Just three legislators had been expelled in Michigan history, the station points out.

In calling for both lawmakers' expulsion earlier in the day, Rep. Ed McBroom, a Republican from Vulcan in the Upper Peninsula, who chaired a disciplinary panel said, "These two members have obliterated the public trust. They've obliterated the trust of their colleagues. And each day that they continue here they reduce the public trust in this institution."

Democrats, however, attacked the "sham" investigation as rushed and self-serving, and they questioned why two "whistleblower" aides to Courser and Gamrat were allowed to be fired by GOP leadership, since the speaker's office knew of problems in the lawmakers' combined office. They said the matter should be looked into by law enforcement and the former aides subpoenaed to testify to lawmakers.

The scandal unfolded last month after a staffer the couple shared was fired in July. Ben Graham gave The Detroit News a secret audio recording of Courser demanding that he send the email to "inoculate the herd," an apparent reference to Courser's supporters. While Graham refused and the email was likely legal, the plot was unethical, according to a House Business Office probe that alleged dishonesty, misconduct and misuse of public resources extending beyond the affair and fictional email.

The investigation also said while the House speaker himself knew of no work-related issues regarding Graham or another staffer, Cotter's then-chief of staff did. The House "in hindsight" should have further inquired, the report found.

State police are investigating the alleged blackmail and this week obtained a warrant for records from a phone company related to a prepaid, or "burner," phone from which Courser said he received threatening text messages.