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Prosecutors say they had secret source on Michigan tabulator scheme

Then-GOP candidate for Michigan attorney general Matthew DePerno, seen here at a Trump rally in October 2022, is allegedly part of a scheme to analyze voting equipment in the state to claim that fraud somehow caused the former president to lose the 2020 presidential race to Democrat Joe Biden. (Emily Elconin/Getty Images/TNS)

A secret source provided prosecutors in Michigan with information on how five voting machines were obtained and inspected by supporters of former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election, according to newly filed court records.

In a brief last week, Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson’s office described a two-hour interview that occurred in March with someone — referred to as an “unidentified person” — who detailed the dismantling of at least one tabulator and the accessing of its “interior components.”

The information was shared with prosecutors through what’s known as a proffer, a meeting in which a suspect or defendant can agree to provide key facts.

“The proffer statement of the informer included information as to how the five voting tabulating machines were obtained, how they were transported and where they were brought,” wrote Timothy Maat, chief assistant prosecutor in Muskegon County, in a Nov. 9 filing. “The proffer also included information as to who was responsible for acquiring the five tabulators.”

The revelation comes as Hilson, acting as a special prosecutor in the cases, continues to pursue felony charges of conspiracy to commit undue possession of voting machines against Republican former attorney general candidate Matt DePerno of Kalamazoo, ex-state Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, and lawyer Stefanie Lambert of South Lyon.

The three individuals were allegedly part of a scheme to acquire and analyze voting equipment in Michigan in 2021 as they spread unproven claims that fraud somehow caused Trump to lose the 2020 presidential race to Democrat Joe Biden. Their accusations gained national attention and became part of arguments in favor of reversing the result.

Hilson unveiled the criminal charges against DePerno, Lambert and Rendon in August, and the cases are currently playing out in Oakland County Circuit Court.

There, Lambert and her attorney, Michael J. Smith, have filed motions attempting to force prosecutors to hand over to the defense more of the information they obtained through their investigation.

Hilson’s team has said it’s provided the defense “thousands of pages of documents, many hours of recorded interviews, access to all tangible evidence seized and numerous pictures and video recordings,” according to a Nov. 9 filing. But prosecutors are contending they shouldn’t be forced to give the defense three specific recorded statements. Two of the recordings were meetings with Michael Lynch, a private investigator who was part of the effort to obtain voting equipment, and Mike Steckel, an agent with the Michigan Attorney General’s office.

Hilson used the interviews to help make charging decisions, both Lynch and Steckel testified before a grand jury, and their grand jury testimony was provided to the defense, according to prosecutors.

The third recorded statement that wasn’t provided to the defense came from the unidentified source.

“The parties agreed that the only exceptions of confidentiality were if the unidentified person provided exculpatory information, provided testimony contrary to the proffer or the court ordered disclosure over the people’s objection,” the prosecutor’s office wrote.

The unidentified person wants to maintain the confidentiality of the entire statement and his or her identify, prosecutors added.

The person won’t be called as a witness by prosecutors and the defense won’t be able to call the person as a witness because of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects individuals against self-incrimination, prosecutors said.

Asked Wednesday if the person had been granted immunity or provided any other benefits, Hilson said only, “Standard proffer language includes the protection that anything that is said will not be used in any case in chief but could be used if the person testified in a court proceeding and made statements contrary to their proffer interview.”

The Detroit News couldn’t independently determine the identity of the individual.

But there were others involved in the effort to inspect Michigan voting equipment in addition to DePerno, Lambert and Rendon. Attorney General Dana Nessel referred nine people to a special prosecutor in August 2022 as part of the investigation.

Hilson ultimately charged three of the nine individuals.

Lambert has argued that court rules require the disclosure “of all recorded statements by witnesses and potential witnesses.”

“The only remedy is for all recordings to be turned over to the defense,” Smith, Lambert’s lawyer, wrote in a court filing this month.

Lambert has submitted an emergency motion urging the recordings’ disclosure on Nov. 3. That motion hadn’t been resolved as of Wednesday afternoon by Oakland County Chief Circuit Judge Jeffery Matis.


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