A unique series of events have taken place, leading to unusual criminal charges filed Tuesday against two Republicans in the wake of the November 2020 election. Matt DePerno, former Michigan attorney general candidate, and Daire Rendon, former state representative for Lake City, are both facing multiple felony charges following what has been described as a “cautious, deliberate approach” by prosecutors.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office, along with Michigan State Police, initially launched an investigation after the Michigan Secretary of State’s office requested a probe into third-party access to voting equipment. However, Dana Nessel, Attorney General, ran into a conflict of interest, as DePerno’s name was linked as one of the main instigators of the alleged voting machine conspiracy.
In response, Nessel’s office petitioned the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council to appoint a special prosecutor, DJ Hilson of Muskegon County, to handle any potential prosecution. Instead of bringing charges himself, Hilson petitioned to form a citizen’s grand jury to indict DePerno and Rendon.
Grand juries are rarely used for such matters; Detroit criminal defense lawyer Steve Fishman pointed out that prosecutors usually have the full authority to file charges. However, grand juries do allow a buffer between an elected prosecutor and the requested charges, and they also offer a platform for citizens to weigh in on the charging process.
Hilson’s work showed his extreme caution, seeking a preemptive interpretation of the Michigan election law by a judge. The law states that possessing voting machines is only permissible with authorization from the Secretary of State or a court order. The judge found that this law was being broken, awarding the grand jury the cause to indict DePerno and Rendon.
Though the process is still ongoing, DePerno and Rendon have each been arraigned and released on personal bond. In response to the charges, Nessel has deemed Hilson’s strategy an “extraordinary measure.”
Though the grand jury’s decision is the final verdict in this case, the detailed groundwork that brought this to fruition may still face scrutiny. Stefanie Lambert Junttila, one of those originally under investigation, has threatened to sue Hilson, accusing him of misrepresenting the election law to the grand jury even after the court ruling. Furthermore, legal experts may continue to examine the unorthodox approach to a seemingly very political case.