LIVONIA — Not guilty pleas were entered Friday on behalf of two ex-campaign staffers accused of forging or falsifying signatures on nominating petitions for former Michigan U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter.
McCotter's former deputy district director Don Yowchuang and district director Paul Seewald appeared in court in the Detroit suburb of Livonia for arraignment. Both are free on $50,000 personal bond. They're due back in court in September.
Yowchuang and Seewald told the judge they understood the charges against them and their rights and left the courtroom and courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Their lawyer, Timothy Dinan, said they've been "completely cooperative," turned themselves in before Friday's hearing and have no prior criminal history.
"It's one thing to make accusations. It's another to prove them," he said outside of court.
Yowchuang and Seewald were charged Thursday along with district representative Mary Melissa Turnbull and staffer Lorianne O'Brady. Charges range from forgery and conspiracy to falsely signing election documents.
The Michigan Attorney General's office said Turnbull turned herself in Friday, was arraigned in Troy district court and released on $5,000 bond. The office said it expects O'Brady to be arraigned early next week in Livonia.
Attorney General Bill Schuette said Thursday that no direct evidence points to McCotter's involvement and he isn't charged, but his fellow Republican provided "no supervision whatsoever" to the employees.
McCotter released an emailed statement after the charges were announced thanking the attorney general and his office "for their earnest, thorough work on this investigation, which I requested, and their subsequent report." McCotter's resignation last month capped a bizarre political downfall for the guitar-slinging Republican who ran a little-noticed campaign for president in 2011.
The 46-year-old McCotter's failure to submit the needed signatures paved the way for tea party-backed Kerry Bentivolio to win the GOP nomination in Tuesday's primary. Bentivolio faces Democratic Dr. Syed Taj in the Nov. 6 election.
McCotter's staff turned in 2,000 signatures supporting his candidacy, twice as many as needed to be eligible for the Aug. 7 primary ballot. But 80 percent were found to be fake or duplicated.