The ruling by the state’s top court on Wednesday reverses a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals and remands the case to Ottawa County’s 58th District Court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” a court document notes.
Brandon Hall, 26, says it’s now likely he will be charged with felonies in relation to the 2012 case.
"Yesterday's decision was obviously disappointing after all three lower courts previously ruled in my favor,” Hall said Thursday. “However, I still have an immense amount of respect for our Supreme Court. I am looking forward to meeting with my legal counsel next week to consider all options, including appealing in federal court.”
Hall said that after four years, he believes the case should go back to Ottawa County and they should work with state Attorney General Bill Schuette's office to end this, as Ottawa County Judge Bradley Knoll suggested nearly three years ago.
The Attorney General’s Office charged Hall with 10 felonies from a 2012 judicial race in which the Grand Haven man admitted to forging signatures. He was facing up to five years in prison if convicted of those charges.
But, when Hall appeared at a District Court hearing, Judge Knoll agreed with defense attorney Don Hann that the case should be charged at a misdemeanor level and did not bind it over to Circuit Court. Hann pointed out that the warning on the petition notes that anyone who signs another person’s name on the document could be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Penalties at the misdemeanor level are fines up to $500 and jail time up to 93 days.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal at the Circuit Court level, but Ottawa County Circuit Judge Jon Van Allsburg affirmed the lower court’s decision, keeping the charges at the misdemeanor level.
The Attorney General’s Office then filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals, which also affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
Each time they appealed, the Attorney General’s Office claimed that Hall intended to defraud election canvassers when he forged the signatures while riding in the back seat of a local attorney’s car on the way to Lansing to turn in candidacy petitions. That attorney, Chris Houghtaling, had hired Hall to acquire the needed signatures to file as a candidate for an open judicial seat for Ottawa County District Court.
Hall said that when he realized they needed more signatures, he used a local phone book and started filling in the blanks.
Hall had previous dealings with the law when he was convicted in 2010 for stealing from a school fundraiser while he was a member of the Grand Haven school board. He served two years of probation and performed 60 hours of community service.
In 2014, he unsuccessfully made a run for school board again as a write-in candidate.
Hall is currently a Republican candidate for the state House 89th District seat being vacated by Amanda Price, R-Park Township, due to state term limits. He said Thursday that he plans to stay in the race.
"Both of my opponents represent the Lansing status quo, so I will subsequently remain in the race as an alternative for people who are sick of more tax increases and bailouts to Detroit while hard-working Michigan families continue to pay the bill," Hall said.