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Former special prosecutor: Chatfield investigation reportedly pursuing serious charges

a portrait of speaker of the Michigan house lee chatfield
Michigan House Republicans
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Michigan House Republicans

New reported details in a criminal investigation into a former Michigan House Speaker are shedding light on the direction of the probe.

The Detroit News reported Monday that witnesses discussed Republican Lee Chatfield’s travel, “excessive” spending, and potential misuse of the prescription drug Adderall in affidavits.

One piece of information uncovered in the report is that authorities are looking into allegations Chatfield took part in a “criminal enterprise.”

Lawyer Todd Flood previously served in the Attorney General’s office. He said that’s a serious charge that could carry a prison sentence.

“When charging that, you first have to have the predicate offense. That being, let’s say for example, embezzlement. Then, from there, all the other crimes that you could potentially be doing under this umbrella, under this net if you will,” Flood said.

He said details authorities are reviewing in Chatfield's case, like financial statements, usually stay private.

“You’re not going to be able to see any of those things in the public until the case is charged and is in court because those tools are tools of law enforcement,” Flood said.

The Attorney General’s office said the documents came to the Detroit News by mistake.

“The documents are suppressed by a judge’s order and were released in error. The Department of Attorney General does not comment on ongoing investigations,” an email from the agency’s communications team said.

Chatfield’s attorney, Mary Chartier, is maintaining her client’s innocence. She questioned the accuracy of information mentioned in the documents obtained by the News.

“Affidavits and reports can be based on rumors, speculation, and outright falsehoods told to the police. Mr. Chatfield is confident that an independent and objective view of the evidence will show that he has committed no crime,” Chartier said in an email.

Flood said it’s important the public remember investigations take time. He wants people to make sure they have all the facts before they come to a judgment.

Besides the allegations of financial misconduct, Chatfield’s sister-in-law has accused him of sexual assault, starting when she was 15. Chatfield has acknowledged the affair but has maintained it was consensual and didn’t start until she was an adult.

A state police investigation into those accusations turned over its evidence to the Attorney General’s office earlier this year.

“When we submit[ted]… this particular case to the Attorney General’s office, we just submitted what we found out in the case, any facts or relevant information and turned it over to the AG’s office for any kind of charging decisions, or no charges. Whatever they may need,” Michigan State Police Lt. Derrick Carroll said.

Since both accusations came out, Michigan House Democrats have been pushing Republican leadership to launch a new ethics investigation within the chamber.

Democrats have unsuccessfully introduced multiple resolutions to spur one on.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp) said more could come, but time is running short this legislative session.

“We’ve looked at now over five months where we’ve been in session less than a handful of days. There is a clear effort to hide from these issues, the issues that are important to Michiganders, the work that we need to do – by the Republican majority,” she said.

House Republican leadership has consistently pointed to the existence of ongoing investigations outside of the chamber as a reason for not starting its own. Gideon D’Assandro is spokesperson for House Speaker Jason Wentworth.

“Investigators are still looking into what happened. The House is staying focused on cooperating with them, assisting with their investigations and getting them whatever they need,” D’Assandro said.

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