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Maddow Blog | Charges against former state House speaker part of a striking pattern

In World
April 17, 2024

In recent years, an amazing number of sitting and former state House speakers have run into serious legal troubles, and as The Detroit Free Press reported, the list grew a little longer yesterday.

The Free Press’ report added that the most serious of the charges, conducting a criminal enterprise, is a felony that could put the former Republican state House speaker behind bars for decades.

“Our investigation has uncovered evidence that Lee Chatfield used various different schemes to embezzle, steal and convert both private and public monies to fund a lavish lifestyle that a state salary could not possibly afford,” Nessel, Michigan’s Democratic state attorney general, said during a press conference yesterday.

Time will tell what becomes of the charges, though it’s worth emphasizing that the Republican’s lawyer criticized the charges as politically motivated, adding, “We are prepared to fight them each and every step of the way.”

But as the case proceeds in Michigan, I’m also struck by how frequently we’ve seen state House speakers run into legal trouble like this in recent years. It’s apparently time to update the list we last discussed a year ago:

October 2014: Bobby Harrell, the then-Republican state House speaker in South Carolina, pled guilty to six counts related to misusing his campaign account for personal benefit.

November 2014: Mike Hubbard, the then-Republican state House speaker in Alabama, was arrested for multiple alleged felonies, including the misuse of his public office for personal gain. He ultimately served more than two years in prison.

January 2015: Prosecutors indicted Sheldon Silver, the former Democratic state House speaker in New York, on corruption charges. He, too, was later sentenced to prison.

March 2022: Michael Madigan, the former Democratic state House speaker in Illinois, was indicted on federal racketeering charges. His trial is still pending, but several people close to his case have been convicted.

April 2023: Rick Johnson, the former Republican state House speaker in Michigan, admitted to taking bribes as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

June 2023: Larry Householder, the former Republican state House speaker in Ohio, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in a $60 million bribery scheme.

And in April 2024, Michigan’s Chatfield joined the list, accused of embezzlement.

It’s quite a pattern.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com

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