2017-10-11 / Front Page

Courser prelim exam begins

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Todd Courser Todd Courser LAPEER — After months of delays, a preliminary exam regarding misconduct charges brought by the people of the State of Michigan against Todd Courser began in Lapeer on Monday.

Courser has been charged by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette with common law offenses.

Specifically, the charge states, Schuette allegedly “solicited a state employee, a member of the legislative staff to send out a false email for public dissemination in order to cover up an extra-marital affair.”

The charge was tossed last November by a judge in Ingham County because the alleged solicitation took place in Courser’s Lapeer office, which is why the case is now being handled in the Lapeer courts. In Ingham County, Courser faces a felony perjury charge for comments he allegedly made under oath during a House select committee after the affair became public.

If convicted, Courser faces up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.

Monday’s preliminary exam in front of Lapeer County District Court Judge Laura Cheger Barnard took up half of the day and wasn’t completed.

Barnard scheduled a status hearing for Nov. 1 and continuation of the preliminary exam for the next day, Nov. 2.

Monday’s portion of the preliminary exam centered on testimony by Ben Graham, a former House aide who allegedly was asked by Courser to send out a fictional email about Courser to effectively minimize a reported affair Courser was having with another representative, Cindy Gamrat.

As previously reported, Graham claims to have refused to participate because he thought it was unethical and possibly illegal.

Graham recorded the May 19, 2015 conversation that allegedly took place in Courser’s Lapeer office and became widely distributed when The Detroit News published a story about the conversation in Aug. 2015 that contained audio clips of the conversation in question.

Attorney Matthew DePerno, of Kalamazoo, represents Courser in the case.

During Monday’s preliminary exam, Barnard oftentimes had to remind DePerno that the case in Lapeer is specific to the alleged conversation between Courser and Graham that took place on May 19, 2015.

Gregory Townsend, a prosecuting attorney for the state, continually objected to DePerno’s line of questioning.

Shortly after noon, Barnard put an end to testimony for the day and scheduled a continuation for next month.

“In the meanwhile, I’d still like to gently remind you to see if you can resolve,” Barnard told the attorneys.

Gamrat became only the fourth legislator in state history to be expelled in September 2015. Courser resigned Sept. 11, 2015 rather than be kicked out, only to file and run again for the seat he just vacated. He lost, winning less than 3 percent of the votes.

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