By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) - A county prosecutor in western Michigan has been tapped to decide whether the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for attorney general and others should be criminally charged for an alleged conspiracy to obtain and tamper with voting equipment.
D.J. Hilson, a Democrat and the top prosecutor in Muskegon County, was assigned by the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council (PACC) on Thursday to take over a sprawling investigation by the Michigan State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Last month Nessel, a Democrat, announced that her Republican challenger in the November election, Matt DePerno, was among nine individuals involved in the alleged conspiracy to get access to voting machines and prove former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Nessel determined that she, therefore, had a conflict of interest and asked the PACC, an autonomous entity within the attorney general’s office, to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case.
"The Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office is in the process of gathering all the information and evidence already collected," Hilson said in a statement, adding that he would then establish procedures to determine if criminal charges were warranted.
DePerno did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has denied any wrongdoing and has called Nessel’s investigation politically motivated.
Nessel said last month that DePerno had plotted to illegally access voting equipment in three townships and one county office in coordination with Republican State Rep. Daire Rendon and Stefanie Lambert, a lawyer who helped high-profile Trump allies file an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn Michigan’s election results. Six other individuals were also identified as targets of the investigation.
Lambert, who has denied any wrongdoing, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Rendon did not reply to an email seeking comment.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Chris Reese)