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Grand jury indicts 18 in fake electors scheme, including two AZ state senators

Arizona’s 11 fake electors sign a document in Phoenix on Dec. 14 2020, falsely claiming that they were the state’s electors and that Donald Trump won the presidential election in Arizona. (Credit: AZGOP/AZ Mirror)

Caitlin Sievers, Arizona Mirror
April 24, 2024

A grand jury has indicted 18 people, including two Arizona state senators and the former head of the Arizona Republican Party, in a fake elector scheme that aimed to install Donald Trump as the president after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. 

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has not released the names of everyone who was indicted, but all 11 fake electors were charged: 

  • Kelli Ward, former AZGOP chairman
  • Arizona Sen. Jake Hoffman, leader of the Arizona Freedom Caucus
  • Arizona Sen. Anthony Kern, member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus
  • Tyler Bowyer, Turning Point USA CEO
  • Michael Ward, husband of Kelli Ward  
  • Nancy Cottle, a Republican who’s been active in local politics for a decade
  • James Lamon, a failed 2022 U.S. Senate candidate
  • Robert Montgomery, former chairman of the Cochise County Republican Committee
  • Samuel Moorhead, former chairman of Gila County Republican Party 
  • Lorraine Pellegrino, former president of the Ahwatukee Republican Women
  • Gregory Safsten, former executive director of the AZGOP

There were also seven people indicted whose names were redacted.

Richie Taylor, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office told the Arizona Mirror that the names were redacted because they haven’t yet been served. He said that service should happen quickly and once it is completed, an unredacted indictment will be published. 

The identities of some of the redacted defendants were obvious, including Rudy Giuliani, who was described as an attorney for Trump who was often referred to as “the mayor,” former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Mike Roman, the director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign. 

Giuliani was one of the big names who spread false claims of election fraud following the Nov. 3, 2020 election, and he held a hearing in Phoenix in late November where he claimed that Arizona’s elections officials had made no effort to ensure that the results of the presidential election were accurate. 

All 11 of the fake electors were charged with conspiracy, fraudulent schemes and artifices, fraudulent schemes and practices and forgery, which are all felonies. 

The fake electors were indicted by a grand jury on April 23 for signing bogus documents claiming that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, after Trump’s campaign allegedly urged them to do so. 

Trump is identified in the indictment as “unindicted co-conspirator 1.”

In the indictment, all of the fake electors are implicated in an attempt to deceive “the public with false claims of election fraud in order to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency.”

They are accused of attempting to keep “President Donald J. Trump in office against the will of Arizona voters, and depriving Arizona voters of their right to vote and have their votes counted.”

According to the indictment, the fake electors forged certificates of Electoral College votes for President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Pence and filed those with the Arizona Secretary of State and the chief judge of the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona.

The group is also charged with pressuring the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, the state Legislature and then-Gov. Doug Ducey to change the election results. 

The fake electors are additionally accused of trying to trick Arizonans into believing that their fraudulent votes were contingent on a successful outcome in Trump’s challenge of the 2020 election results, when they were actually trying to urge Pence to reject the votes for Biden on Jan. 6, 2021. 

According to the indictment, Ward organized the fake elector vote, and proclaimed that they were Arizona’s “true electors.” 

Several of the fake electors, including Hoffman, Kern, Ward and Bowyer, have continued to spread the unfounded claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, even though no evidence of that has ever come to light. 

Hoffman sent a letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 5, 2021, asking him to delay the certification of the election results and to check with the Arizona Legislature to determine which slate of presidential electors to use. 

Hoffman issued a statement Wednesday evening, shortly after Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes released news of the indictments. 

“Let me be unequivocal, I am innocent of any crime, I will vigorously defend myself, and I look forward to the day when I am vindicated of this disgusting political persecution by the judicial process,” Hoffman wrote. “Kris Mayes & the Democrats’ naked corruption and weaponization of government will long be a stain on the history of our great state and nation.”

Hoffman additionally alleged that Mayes made up her mind that the fake electors were guilty before she even began an investigation, saying that the indictments were an effort to go after her political opponents. 

The Arizona Republican Party condemned the indictments and called them “politically motivated” and “designed to silence dissent and weaponize the law against political opponents.”

“The timing of these charges—precisely four years after the 2020 election and as President Biden seeks re-election—is suspiciously convenient and politically motivated. This is not justice; it is pure election interference,” the AZGOP said in its statement.

There were multiple fake elector schemes in Arizona, one tied to the AZGOP which included the above-named electors, as well as another one by the Sovereign Citizens of the Great State of Arizona that was not tied to the Trump campaign. 

Georgia, Michigan and Nevada have already brought charges against fake electors there, and Wisconsin is still investigating possible charges for its fake electors. 

Arizona Senate Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein lauded Mayes for sending the message that attempting to subvert the will of the people and stop the peaceful transfer of power comes with legal consequences. 

“I appreciate Attorney General Mayes’ leadership in ensuring that Arizona’s fake electors are held accountable,” Epstein said in a statement. “ The individuals who played into and spread the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump are dangerous to our nation’s democracy.”

This report was originally published in Arizona Mirror, which is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

Report: NV fares well with transgender rights

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