MONDAY NEWS HIT - In a major announcement, the state Attorney General has referred a criminal case involving unauthorized access to voting machines to a special prosecutor following an investigation by department and the Michigan State Police.
Allegations of illegal third party access to tabulators from several Michigan township election offices was identified by the Michigan Secretary of State, which first sent a request for an investigation in February, 2022.
Among those named in the probe include Matthew DePerno, the supposed Republican nominee for Attorney General, state Rep. Daire Rendon (Lake City), and Dar Leaf, a Michigan county sheriff whose involvement in the unauthorized seizure of voting tabulators has been reported before.
DePerno's status as a candidate for attorney general is cited as a "potential conflict" of interest in the case, prompting the investigation to be turned over to a special prosecutor.
In Nessel's request for a special prosecutor, it alleges DePerno, Detorit-based attorney Stephanie Lambert Juntilla, and Rendon "orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access to voting tabulators" used in local elections in Roscommon County, Barry County, and Missaukee County.
According to a clerk in Roscommon County, they were told by Rendon that state House of Representatives was "conducting an investigation in election fraud."
The tabulators seized by the individuals were then taken to hotels or Airbnbs in Oakland County where four other individuals "broke into the tabulators and performed ‘tests’ on the equipment." DePerno was in the hotel room during the procedures, the attorney general said.
The development has big implications for the 2022 Midterm elections in Michigan, which have already seen their fair share of drama during the primary election season.
The plan to seize voting tabulators tracks back to unfounded allegations of the 2020 election being stolen. DePerno, a top ally of former President Donald Trump has endorsed the false narrative, rose to prominence following his involvement in a case involving votes in Antrim County.
The investigation was first reported by The Detroit News.
In a statement posted to Twitter, DePerno denied the allegations, calling it the "incoherent liberal fever dream of lies."
"As the polls continue to rise in favor of DePerno, the Attorney General used the tax dollars of Michigan residents to go after her opponent. It is clear that Dana Nessel is attacking our democracy and demonstrates she wants to turn our great country into a banana republic."
In Nessel's request for a special prosecutor, it states when the investigation began, "there was not a conflict of interest. However, during the course of the investigation, facts were developed that DePerno was one of the prime instigators of the conspiracy."
2 dead in Detroit house fire Monday morning
An elderly couple were killed after a fire tore through their Detroit home early Monday morning. Detroit Fire Chief James Harris said a blaze tore through a home in the 13000 block of Maiden on the city's easy side around 3:30 a.m. Crews fought smoke for hours after responding to the fire. The couple was found in the back bedroom where they were recovered and rushed to a hospital.
They later succumbed to their injuries. Harris said the fire never made it to the back of the house and that smoke inhalation was the likely cause of death. The scene was active hours later and crews plan to do a more thorough review of the site after the sun rises. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
"It's heart-wrenching. It makes you think, think about your own safety. You think always about the citizen's safety first. It's one of our worst situations that we respond to as a firefighter," Harris said.
The victims were identified as a 65-year-old woman and a 55-year-old man.
Two mass shootings in Detroit this weekend
Gun violence continues to wrangle Metro Detroit after police responded to two mass shootings in the city this weekend. Two people were killed and 10 others were injured after a pair of shootings on Saturday morning and night.
The first happened on Saratoga Street around 10:50 a.m. when a shooting suspect opened fire on people inside a location known for being a drug house. The ages of the victims ranged from 35 to 76 years old.
The second shooting happened Saturday night on Andover Street after several people were playing a game in front of a home. Gunfire erupted at one point, injuring six people and killing a seventh. All the victims were adult men in their 30's and 40's.
"This is another senseless shooting. The violence in this city is ridiculous. We can do better," said Detroit Police Commander Jacqueline Pritchett.
State police cracking down on dangerous driving on I-75 this week
Traffic enforcement on I-75 from the Ohio border to the Upper Peninsula will ramp up from Michigan State Police this week. State police said they were leading the charge in increased road enforcement as part of a statewide crackdown on dangerous driving.
"The goal of this upcoming initiative, this upcoming operation, is not to go out there and see how many people we can pull over and see how many tickets we can write," Lt. Chris Keller said. "That’s not the goal. If our enforcement effort next week can lower crashes, even if it only saves one fatality, then it was all worth it."
The added enforcement started Sunday and will go until next Saturday.
Keller says there were a little more than 14,500 crashes in Michigan in 2021—and nearly 70 percent of those happened in districts in which the I-75 corridor run through them.
2nd trial of Whitmer kidnapping suspects Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr. begins Monday
Two men accused of crafting a plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 and ignite a national rebellion are facing a second trial this week, months after a jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the pair while acquitting two others.
The result in April was a blow to federal prosecutors, who had set out to show that extremists were committed to snatching Whitmer and causing chaos close to the election between Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump.
The trial of Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. means another public airing of secretly recorded conversations, text messages and chilling social media posts. It also comes at a time of intense news coverage of the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by Trump supporters at the Capitol.
Jurors will see how undercover FBI agents and informants had infiltrated the Michigan group. In response, defense attorneys again will argue that Fox and Croft were shielded by the First Amendment when they expressed malicious opinions about government and were entrapped every step of the way.
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It's going to be another wet one as Metro Detroit kicks off the week with temperatures and humidity coming down as drier air moves in over the region.
What else we're watching
- The gas price news continues to get better as AAA reports prices dropped 20 cents from a week ago. The average cost for a gallon in Michigan is now at $4.04 - a far cry from the $5 gas people were paying in July.
- A search is underway for a man who went missing in Lake St. Clair Sunday afternoon. According to authorities, they found a boat but the man who went missing near Anchor Bay was still missing. The U.S. Coast Guard says it will continue searching around 8 a.m.
- Resurfacing work on Rochester Road will mean some added closures in Oakland County as the road commission begins work from Tienken Road to Lakeville Road. The project will cost $3.5 million and includes new asphalt and pavement markings.
- Four more cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Michigan, the health department reported this weekend. The virus was declared a public health emergency by the CDC last week.
- Mayor Mike Duggan is suing the Police Fire Retirement System pension board over its 20-year payment plan schedule, rather than a 30-year plan requested by the city.
Senate passes Inflation Reduction Act; House to vote next
Democrats pushed their election-year economic package to Senate passage Sunday, a hard-fought compromise less ambitious than President Joe Biden’s original domestic vision but one that still meets deep-rooted party goals of slowing global warming, moderating pharmaceutical costs and taxing immense corporations.
The estimated $740 billion package heads next to the House, where lawmakers are poised to deliver on Biden's priorities, a stunning turnaround of what had seemed a lost and doomed effort that suddenly roared back to political life. Democrats held united, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.