Two Michigan lawmakers who were forced out of office due to an affair and a bizarre cover-up could face five to 15 years behind bars.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced felony charges Friday against former Rep. Todd Courser and former Rep. Cindy Gamrat, the Republican politicians who were ousted in September after their tryst and scheme came to light.
Courser resigned and Gamrat was expelled after Courser sent an email to GOP activists and reporters under the pretense of a smear campaign claiming he had been caught in the act with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub.
The phony email, which called Courser a "bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant," was intended to make the extramarital affair between him and Gamrat less believable in case it was exposed, Courser later said.
Schuette obtained warrants for four felonies against Courser, the Detroit Free Press reported: lying under oath to the Select Committee in the House of Representatives, a 15-year felony, and three counts of misconduct in office in connection with lying to the House Business Office, asking staffers to send a false e-mail and also asking them to forge his signature on proposed legislation.
Gamrat faces two felonies for misconduct in office: for asking staffers to sign her name to legislative proposals and lying to the House Business Office, the Free Press said. The misconduct charges carry a 5-year maximum penalty.
Courser denied the charges as "baseless" on Saturday.
"Todd Courser will continue to defend himself against these baseless and unconstitutional charges. He is confident that the truth will come out and that these baseless charges will be shown to be just another extension of corrupt government," said a statement on his Facebook page.
Courser has said an "anonymous" blackmailer was sending him and Gamrat texts, demanding his resignation, and that he hoped sending the phony email would make it appear they were victims of a smear campaign and that news of the affair would take a back seat to that if the affair was made public.
Gamrat maintains she didn't know the content of the email, which Courser sent in May, but has admitted to official misconduct and misuse of state resources.
An investigation found that Gamrat's husband, Joe, orchestrated the anonymous texts that threatened to expose their affair. He allegedly had a security guard send texts from a burner phone, according to Michigan's MLive.com. No charges have been pressed against him.
Courser and Gamrat were only recently elected: They came into office in 2014 as popular tea party winners. Their scandal broke last August.
"With the filing of charges, we're demonstrating to citizens that no one is above the law," Michigan Attorney General Schuette said Friday. "Not even those who walk in the halls of power. No one is beyond the reach of the law."