Election fraud charges reduced

A Grand Haven man charged with election law forgery no longer faces the possibility of prison time.
Becky Vargo
Oct 25, 2013

Brandon Michael Hall, 23, could have gone to prison for up to five years if he had been convicted of the felony charges made against him by the state Attorney General’s Office.

In an opinion released this week, Ottawa County District Judge Bradley Knoll declined to bind Hall over to Circuit Court on the felony charges.

To read the opinion, download the RELATED FILE (PDF) below this story.

Hall was charged after authorities determined he forged signatures on several nominating petitions for 2012 judicial candidate Chris Houghtaling. With the signatures invalidated, Houghtaling did not have enough signatures to run for district judge and his name was removed from the ballot.

The opinion noted that on the day before and on the day of the filing deadline last year, Hall added several names to the petitions using petitions that had been previously circulated by Houghtaling for judicial elections two years earlier.

“Defendant added the names by copying the signatures from the 2010 petitions and then filed the petitions with the Secretary of State, signing the petitions himself as petitioner," the judge wrote.

Hall’s attorney, Donald Hann, said the petition notes that anyone signing a false name is guilty of a misdemeanor, not a felony.

The Attorney General’s Office argued that “conduct prohibited by the election law can also be charged as forgery, even if not so designated by the statue,” Knoll noted in his opinion. The judge wrote that the court must give meaning to all the words contained in a statute.

“The designation of forgery as a felony is not expressly indicated, but is presumed from the maximum possible penalty, which takes the matter outside this court’s jurisdiction,” Knoll wrote.

Knoll said there is still probable cause that a crime was committed, but it will be handled at the misdemeanor level.

Hall now faces up to a $500 fine and/or up to 93 days in jail if he's convicted of the 10 counts of signing unlawful signatures. A pre-trial hearing on the case has been set for Nov. 7.

"I am extremely grateful Judge Knoll rebuked the attorney general, upheld the law and dismissed these outrageous felony charges,” Hall said. “I am immensely sorry to our amazing community here in Grand Haven that these unfortunate events occurred, and I am highly looking forward to the conclusion of these proceedings."

Hall is a former Grand Haven School Board member. He stepped down from the board in 2010 after being convicted of stealing several hundred dollars from a school-sanctioned fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Houghtaling said Hall asked if he could work on his judicial campaign as a chance to redeem himself and show he could be trusted. The local attorney said it was a mistake to give Hall that chance.

Hann said the Attorney General’s Office could appeal the decision.

A call to the Attorney General’s Office was not returned before press time.

Comments

rukidding

This, well this person I guess, should go to jail but it isn't the end of the world if he doesn't. What he does need though, is to know that nobody in the tri-cities area will ever trust him again, because we all know he is a thief and a liar. Did I miss anything?

Lanivan

Exactly right. The calls for his tar and feathering, and being run out of town on a donkey with nothing but a water canteen are getting a little old.

He's a terribly misguided young man with con man tendencies that have been nipped in the bud, and hopefully he will do some self-examination, and get some help, if that is what is required.

rukidding

Donkey not needed he is his own...

Tri-cities realist

IF? He definitely needs to get his act straightened out.

Lanivan

I guess what I was trying to say is that given that I'm not a mental health professional, it's not my place to diagnosis his problem as needing therapy, although in my opinion, it sounds like he could benefit from it.

Just weighing prison over-crowding versus other ways that would afford this young man the opportunity to turn his life around to overcome his obvious problems and achieve some level of his potential.

Citizen

Since this is his second alleged case of fraudulent misconduct, I'm not so sure the tendencies have been nipped anywhere. He has, however, sabotaged what were presumably some pretty lofty public service goals, which he appears motivated enough to have realized someday, if not for these mistakes.

Zegota

What he really needs, is a good old spanking...

zwesterhouse

Wonder if he will run for any public office again?

rukidding

Well, he certainly displays the same quality of conscience that most politicians eventually adhere too; probably fit right in.

Tri-cities realist

I was thinking the same thing. His comments display arrogance and a flippant attitude, he acts as if HE had no control over what he did. Fool me once...

theQuin

Serving as a public servant often involves politics. Sad, but true. Not all people in politics are evil and self-serving. It is upsetting that this guy sullies the entire political arena with his arrogance, dishonesty, and lack of remorse for stealing money and perpetrating fraud.
He is just the kind of guy who will move on to another state, and do the same kind of things he has done here.
He needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. His record shows that he is not to be trusted, and I wonder why Mr. Houghtailing ever allowed him to circulate petitions in the first place - especially since the judicial candidate was in the forefront of the school board recall effort initiated against this supposed "wunderkid."

Barry Soetoro

Too bad. He looks like he would make a lot of new friends in there.

dyankee

Sadly, this little rat's actions are typical of voting fraud across this country in our elections.(local, State, or Federal) especially, in large cities. In 3 precincts in Philadelphia during the last Presidential elections the vote count was 16,950 Obama 0 Romney Yet, barely a peep or challenge of fraud even from the spineless RNC. Nauseating actually.

lady1983

Awww.... and that little boy would have been a fine candidate for the "Don't drop the soap club."

rukidding

You do paint a picture lady, careful or this will turn into a coming out revival.

Truth Be Told

Hall should have been sent to prison and made an example of.

TooMuch

He did a great injustice to Chris Houghtaling who was trying to give him a second chance. If anyone was wondering about his character there is no wonder left. He has no ethic or moral character. It is sad that he can go somewhere else and create other cons and hurt other people. Hopefully a google search will help that next person and/or community. A little local jail time for reflection would not hurt him one bit.

Boycotter

We know 23yr old Brandon has issues, but whats a lawyer who lost his bid to be an ottawa county judge and currently sits on the school board even associated with Mr. Hall.

polarize

You might suppose that the attorney believes in second chances. Even though it was a gamble that was lost, I hope it hasn't altered his good intentions in trying to help Brandon. Mr Hall, on the other hand, needs to turn around before it's too late and he winds up in a worse situation.

If you read this Brandon.... Work hard at living your life with a clear conscience and as though someone is always watching. Your integrity and transparency will perhaps gain you redemption over time and open new legitimate doors of opportunity but it will require growing up some more. You started out well being the youngest person to serve on the school board and certainly capable of moving on in life and "doing it right" in whatever opportunity is appropriate for you. Good luck to you sir!

FuturaGH

Its very suspicious that Houghtaling would want to involve himself with such a character in the community. Possibly keeping a scapegoat near his side to do his political dirty work!

Mr. Hall had access to previous years paperwork.(in order to copy names) How did he acquire this? And who helped him concoct this scheme?

It is well known that he was inside Mr Houghtalings car when the signatures were being added. Both parties were likely aware that there was an insufficient amount of signatures. Are we honestly going to believe that he was not coerced into this by the party that would have benefited?

The local leader with the connections kept a "Fall Guy" close at hand!

Corruption is Rampant in Our Beautiful Little Bubble that is GH!

Don't accept anything at Face Value!!

GHJames

Everyone loses sight of the fact that just because you are convicted doesn't mean you serve time, felony or misdemeanor. This guy needs a felony conviction on his record to keep him out of as many positions that he could abuse as possible. Prison time for this would be a waste of taxpayer money. It would not accomplish anything. People just need to have their eyes open whenever Mr. Hall crossestheir path to keep him from an opportunity he could abuse. It is obvious by now he lacks any moral or ethical fortitude and will keep doing these things as long as he continues to get the opportunities.

theQuin

Well said. I think you are right. But how do we warn his next victims? I believe I heard that he had at one time moved west. He could do the same things he has done here in another state! He can be deceptively congenial.

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