Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Edward Sosnick has been selected as the one-man grand juror to investigate allegations of election fraud in filings related to the group The Tea Party, which made an unsuccessful attempt to appear as a political party on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Sosnick was the unanimous choice of the circuit court judges once they approved the petition for a grand jury by a secret ballot, said court Administrator Kevin Oeffner.
The judges reached their decision about 2 p.m. Wednesday.
“He was the unanimous selection,” Oeffner said of Sosnick’s pick to be the lone grand juror.
Sosnick will now have six months to investigate allegations of election fraud, perjury, forgery, obstruction of justice and violation of the Michigan Notary Act leveled at the end of August by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and county Clerk Ruth Johnson.
They were supported in their petition by county Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and county Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
Patterson and the other county officials asked for a grand jury to look at filings made by Oakland County candidates for The Tea Party group where signatures didn’t match their voter registration cards and after one candidate protested he hadn’t filed to run and was living out of state.
They also linked the filings to Oakland County Democratic Party employee Jason Bauer, who notarized several candidate filings. Bauer resigned his position, as did Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Mike McGuinness.
The Tea Party group’s bid for political party status was denied in a split vote by state canvassers in August and appeals to the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court were also rejected.
“I’m very pleased the Oakland County Circuit Court has acted on my petition to impanel a one-man grand jury,” Patterson said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “It is a very powerful investigative tool that is now available to assist Sheriff Michael Bouchard and Prosecutor Jessica Cooper in uncovering allegations of election fraud.
“At this juncture in the proceedings, I have no further official involvement. The investigation is in the hands of Judge Edward Sosnick who was appointed as the one-man grand juror. The law requires that grand jury proceedings remain secret. Therefore, I will have no further comment.”
Johnson, the county clerk, said "The accusations of forged signatures, false notary service and fictitious candidate filings in this so-called “fake” Tea Party go far beyond simple political shenanigans. Our office will continue to work with the proper authorities and fight to maintain integrity in our elections, which are at the core of the democratic process."
Oeffner, the circuit court administrator, said Sosnick will continue his circuit court docket while conducting his grand jury investigation.
Sosnick’s office said the judge has no comment at this time.
But he’ll likely want to bone up on grand jury proceedings and procedures since they’ve been used rarely in Oakland County.
Oeffner said there were a couple of citizens’ grand juries in the 1980s and 1990s, the last in 1998 when Richard Thompson was Oakland County prosecutor.
However, the last time the circuit court bench impaneled a one-man grand jury was in 1977, Oeffner said. Then, former circuit court Judge Steven Andrews was the grand juror, he said.
“We know procedures have to be conducted in secret,” Oeffner said. “He has six months in which to complete his investigation.”
Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @crummc.