State appeals Hall's reduced charges

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:29 PM

Brandon Michael Hall, 23, currently faces up to a $500 fine and/or up to 93 days in jail if convicted of 10 counts of election forgery at the misdemeanor level.

Hall was originally charged at the felony level 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 in Ottawa County and his name was removed from the ballot.

If convicted at the felony level, Hall could face up to five years in prison.

Hall’s attorney, Donald Hann, made a motion in Ottawa County District Court to reduce the charges to the misdemeanor level, noting that the petition says that anyone signing a false name is guilty of a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Holland District Judge Bradley Knoll ruled in Hall's favor and denied binding him over to Circuit Court, based on an opinion he released last month. The judge also changed Hall’s bond, allowing him to leave the state unless he is scheduled to appear in court.

The Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal on Oct. 31, according to court records. Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said they are now waiting for transcripts from Hall's preliminary exam in District Court.

“After that, we will file a brief in Ottawa County Circuit Court and then wait for a hearing to be set,” she said.

A motion to stay proceedings was granted Nov. 7. Yearout said that means the proceedings at the District Court level are on hold pending a decision on the appeal.

“We disagree with the decision to reduce the charge to misdemeanors, because we believe felonies are appropriate,” she said.

Hall disagrees.

"The attorney general is appealing Judge Knoll's ruling even though the law is crystal clear, subsequently costing taxpayers thousands of dollars,” he said.

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