BELLAIRE — A lawsuit supported by allies of President Donald Trump accusing Antrim County of voter fraud will proceed despite Congress’ certification of the electoral count and an announcement by Vice President Mike Pence that Joe Biden won the presidency.
“These small lawsuits, the certification hasn’t had any impact on them,” said Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy. “I am just anxious for it all to be over.”
In a related development, attorneys for Dominion Voting Systems sent a cease and desist letter to Matthew DePerno, the Portage lawyer representing a Central Lake Township man in the suit against Antrim County.
The letter accuses DePerno of being among “architects and drivers of the ongoing misinformation campaign against Dominion,” and states litigation is “imminent.”
DePerno said the letter he received from Dominion attorneys had no bearing on a hearing in the case scheduled for Monday.
A similar letter was sent to Russell Ramsland Jr. of Texas, the author of a cyber security report on the Antrim County vote that both Dominion attorneys and state elections officials said was riddled with falsehoods, as well as to pro-Trump attorney, Sidney Powell.
An email to Ramsland seeking comment received an automated response which said Ramsland only allows incoming email from pre-approved senders, in order to control spam.
Dominion filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Powell in federal court on Friday.
The lawsuit quotes Republican state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s statement that lawmakers’ investigation found no truth to the Antrim County accusations against Dominion.
“The recent attacks on the democratic process are not singular or isolated events,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said. “They are the result of a deliberate and malicious campaign of lies over many months. Sidney Powell and others created and disseminated these lies, assisted and amplified by a range of media platforms.”
DePerno in November sued the small northern Michigan county on behalf of Bill Bailey, who said his rights were violated after Guy said a software management updating error initially assigned about 2,000 Trump votes to Biden.
The error was identified before the vote was certified and a hand recount of Antrim County’s paper ballots conducted Dec. 17 by the state’s Bureau of Elections and employing local volunteer poll workers found no fraud and that human error resulted in an incomplete software update.
A remote hearing in Bailey v. Antrim County is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday in front of 13th Circuit Court Chief Judge Kevin Elsenheimer.
Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and others have filed 60 election-related lawsuits nationwide in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential results — including nine in Michigan courts.
All but a few have either been dismissed by judges or dropped by the plaintiffs, court records show.
Two Michigan cases remain active, however, both of which have ties to Antrim County: Bailey’s lawsuit, and another Powell filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, brought by Antrim County Republican chairman Daren Rubingh and others, against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The federal court action also seeks to decertify the state’s election results, while court actions by Powell and DePerno appear to have also drawn the ire of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Nessel says she’ll seek sanctions against attorneys filing election-related lawsuits containing what she called “intentional misrepresentations,” though did not reference attorneys by name.
“We are still evaluating the scope of our request and the specific individuals against whom we will be seeking sanctions,” her department spokesman Ryan Jarvi said Tuesday. “However, sanctions could involve an award of fees and costs by order of the court, or it could involve professional disciplinary action by the Attorney Grievance Commission.”
DePerno circulated a letter from the commission on social media which appears to show he asked for an investigation of Nessel.
“One issue was that Dana Nessel sent out tweets prior to or in advance of hearings,” DePerno said Friday, “critical of the judge, Elsenheimer, which is a violation of rules of ethics.”
DePerno also said he interpreted Nessel’s statement about possible sanctions as threats, that he was aware of additional anonymous but credible threats against him, but that the Michigan State Police in Gaylord had declined to take his report.
Michigan State Police spokesperson Lt. Derrick Carroll said Gaylord Post Commander Lt. Carl Rothenberger was unaware of any complaint by DePerno and suggested that if DePerno felt threatened, he should call 9-1-1.
Nessel assigned two attorneys from her office to the lawsuit filed by DePerno on behalf of Bailey, after Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson successfully sought to intervene, and Elsenheimer agreed to add her as a named defendant.
A review of records with the state’s Attorney Discipline Board shows 132 inquiries — none against DePerno — have been brought by the board against member attorneys since 2004, for participating in court filings or professional conduct related to “intentional misrepresentation.”
When a complaint is found to be valid, attorneys have faced fines, sanctions, suspension or disbarment, records show.
DePerno’s homepage contains links to two online fundraising efforts, each seeking $100,000 to help finance the Bailey lawsuit, as well as a link to an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show, where DePerno reads from a cyber security report, which has since been debunked by election officials.
The report, by Allied Security Operations Group of Texas, and Ramsland, followed a court order granting Bailey’s request for a forensic examination of Antrim County’s Dominion election equipment.
Released in December, it was quickly debunked by the state’s Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater, former U.S. elections official Ryan Macias and others, who said ASOG and Ramsland distributed falsehoods and misinformation.
Ramsland is a cyber security expert who previously made inaccurate claims about election results and mistook voting jurisdictions in Minnesota for Michigan in court filings.
His analysis of Antrim’s vote tally went viral after it was shared during a state House Oversight Committee hearing in Lansing on Dec. 2. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, attended the session along with a number of witnesses who shared the now-widely debunked allegations of election fraud.
Antrim County officials previously said Giuliani’s legal team was involved with the effort to examine Dominion voting equipment, though later walked that back to say they “may” be involved.
DePerno, previously known for representing Todd Courser, a Tea Party Republican ousted from the Michigan House of Representatives in 2015, is not named in the defamation suit against Powell, court records show, though Antrim County is referenced.
Courser was charged with misconduct in public office after being accused of firing staffers and releasing a “false flag” email containing graphic allegations of gay sex to distract from an extramarital affair.
Courser pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, was sentenced to 12 months probation and subsequently sued Republican House leaders, legislative aides, state police investigators and a Detroit newspaper reporter.
DePerno continues to represent Courser in the Michigan Court of Appeals, regarding the lawsuit filed against the reporter who worked for The Detroit News.
Monday’s discovery hearing in Bailey v. Antrim County can be viewed by the public on Elsenheimer’s Youtube channel.
Court documents show DePerno identified Ramsland and James P. Waldron a retired colonel, combat veteran and wilderness survival specialist, as expert witnesses who may be called in the Antrim County case.
Waldron has worked alongside Giuliani in various state efforts to overturn election results, including Georgia and Michigan.