All Rights reserved
A former Michigan state representative who attempted to concoct a false story of a scandal involving sex with men to cover up his heterosexual extramarital affair has pleaded no contest to a charge in the case, bringing the process close to an end.
Todd Courser, an antigay Tea Party Republican, in 2015 asked an aide "to send an outlandishly bogus, sexually explicit email to thousands of fellow Republicans that claimed Courser was addicted to porn and drugs, and had sex with men outside a Lansing bar," the Detroit Free Press reports. Courser was actually having an affair with a female colleague, Rep. Cindy Gamrat, and hoped to fool a man who was threatening him. That man was eventually revealed to be Gamrat's husband.
The aide, Ben Graham, refused to go along with the plot and recorded conversations about it, and he ended up being fired. He gave the recordings to The Detroit News, which reported on the scheme. Gamrat was expelled from the Michigan House of Representatives, and Courser resigned before he could suffer the same fate. Both legislators were staunch conservatives who fought marriage equality and abortion rights.
Courser pleaded no contest to a charge of willful neglect of duty by a public officer Wednesday in a Lapeer County court. The plea means he "neither admits nor disputes the charges, but it has the same implication as a guilty plea and is often used as part of a plea bargain," the Free Press reports. He will be sentenced September 16 on the charge, which is a misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If prosecutors are satisfied with the sentence, an additional charge of perjury may be dismissed.
"Today's decision by Todd Courser to plead no-contest to a one-year misdemeanor may be the wisest decision he has made in years," out Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a written statement. "This case has had a long, torturous history and his decision to acknowledge responsibility for his actions is long overdue."
Courser initially faced several felony charges in Ingham County, but a judge ruled in 2016 that Lapeer County was the proper venue for prosecution, so the trial was moved and the charges reduced.
After leaving the House, both Courser and Gamrat sought election to the body again and lost. Courser also lost a race for Ingham County prosecutor. Both politicians have filed several civil lawsuits against legislators, staffers, and others who helped expose the scheme and assured their removal from office.