Prosecutor: Critical to tell voters of scandal before primary | News
LANSING, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) - There was a "possibility" of bringing a conspiracy to commit perjury charge against House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Rep. Roy Schmidt over their recruitment of a fake Democratic candidate, but the case would have likely taken too long to investigate and been too difficult to prosecute, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said today.
A Michigan State Police detective believed further investigation could have led to a perjury conspiracy case being brought against the two politicians, the Free Press reported exclusively this morning.
Forsyth said in a telephone interview that one of the most significant factors in him shutting down the MSP investigation on July 17 was the need to tell voters before the Aug. 7 primary what had happened. Schmidt, whose 76th State House District covers Grand Rapids' west side, faced write-in challenges after jumping from the Democrats to the Republicans on May 15, just before the filing deadline.
"The investigation had gone on for two months," Forsyth said. "We were coming up on a primary election and voters had a right to know ... I felt obligated to come out with something."
The State Police detective leading the investigation believed Bolger, R-Marshall, and Schmidt could have been charged with the felony of conspiring to commit perjury if they knew fake Democratic candidate Matt Mojzak was not living at a home in Schmidt's district. Mojzak had falsely sworn in his affidavit of candidacy that he was living on Woodpath in Grand Rapids.
Schmidt switched parties just before the filing deadline, just as Mojzak filed as a patsy Democratic candidate. Papers for both of them were delivered to the Kent County clerk by Phil Browne, a top aide to Bolger. Having Mojzak on the ballot as a Democrat would have made it more difficult for Democrats to mount a write-in challenge, had Mojzak not withdrawn on May 18 amid a media furor over the fact he didn't live in the district.
Det. Sgt. Robert Davis noted that Mojzak - a 22-year-old acquaintance of Schmidt's son Ryan - told him Schmidt knew he was not living at the home. Mojzak told the detective he told Schmidt he wasn't living there and Schmidt said that was OK, records obtained under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act show.
But Forsyth, a Republican, shut down the investigation before Davis was able to execute three search warrants that a judge approved - including one for the cell phone records of Bolger.
Although the warrants were approved, "I had no idea how long it would take to get phone records" from the wireless companies involved, Forsyth said. "There was a certain time element to this."
Asked if he felt going after the phone records of a prominent official such as Bolger was going too far in an investigation he didn't think was leading to a successful prosecution, Forsyth said that was "maybe a factor" in his decision-making, though not the most significant one.
"Let's face it, Bolger has a pretty powerful position in Lansing," Forsyth said. "I have no doubt the Democratic Party would love to see what he had sent out in terms of text messages to people." However, "that's not an appropriate use of the State Police."
Forsyth said nobody from the Republican party pressured him to close the investigation, which he does not intend to reopen.
Forsyth said it was "murky" from text messages and other evidence what Schmidt's son Ryan and nephew A.J. had told Schmidt about Mojzak's residency and any case in which either or both of them had to testify against their father or uncle would be difficult.
It's true that Mojzak said he told Schmidt he wasn't living at the Woodpath address, Forsyth said. But that testimony would be subject to challenge because Mojzak had been granted a form of immunity under which he couldn't be prosecuted for what he told investigators as long as it was truthful.
The fact a Bolger text message referenced a consultation with an attorney was another complicating factor, Forsyth said.
He believed both Bolger and Schmidt were acting after receiving advice from an attorney. Even if the attorney gave them bad advice, that makes it more difficult to prove intent to commit a crime, he said.
When he closed the investigation without charges, Forsyth issued a harshly worded news release in which he said Schmidt and Bolger had tried to perpetrate a fraud on voters and he was embarrassed as a Republican by their conduct.
Gary M. Wilson, a former assistant prosecutor in Wayne County, told the Free Press the highly charged language Forsyth used was unusual and inappropriate and he believed it was a way of providing Forsyth cover for closing the investigation without charges.
"I stand by what I said," Forsyth said today. "I'm offended by what they did here.
"It bothers me even now everybody seems to be circling the wagons around Roy Schmidt, like this never happened."
Forsyth, who could not be reached Friday or over the weekend for the report that appeared in today's print edition of the Free Press, said he just returned from a trip to Boston on a family matter.