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Guilty, no contest pleas for 2 in McCotter probe

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DETROIT (AP) — A former aide pleaded no contest Tuesday to forgery in an election scandal that ruined the political career of a longtime Detroit-area congressman.

Don Yowchuang, who was deputy district director to then-U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, assembled and delivered petitions that were supposed to get the Livonia Republican on the August primary ballot, a routine chore every two years. Many signatures, however, turned out to be fakes or photocopies.

Yowchuang pleaded no contest to 10 felony counts of forgery in Wayne County Circuit Court. Separately, McCotter's former district director, Paul Seewald, pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor charges of falsely signing a nominating petition as a circulator.

Yowchuang and Seewald still are trying to have a conspiracy charge dismissed. A judge will hear arguments Jan. 9.

McCotter was disqualified from the primary election after the secretary of state's office said he didn't have 1,000 valid signatures. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing, although the state attorney general said McCotter was "asleep at the switch."

He quit Congress in July after nearly 10 years rather than serve the remainder of his term.

Yowchuang and Seewald incriminated themselves last summer during interviews with the attorney general's office. Despite their cooperation, they were hit with felonies and no opportunity for a plea bargain.

"My guy came in voluntarily and then was hung out to dry. I don't think it's a good way to do business," Yowchuang's attorney, Tim Dinan, told The Associated Press.

In a statement, Attorney General Bill Schuette said he has a responsibility "to enforce the law and ensure public integrity."

Yowchuang told investigators that he panicked last spring when it appeared he didn't have enough valid signatures to take to Lansing. He denied accepting a bribe to spoil McCotter's career.

"I still look at Thaddeus like a father figure," Yowchuang said.

He faces up to 17 months in prison but hopes to get probation based on a lack of a criminal record. Yowchuang also pleaded no contest to falsely signing petitions as a circulator, the same misdemeanor pinned on Seewald.

Another former aide, Mary Turnbull, is charged with conspiracy in a separate case in Oakland County. A fourth staffer, Lorianne O'Brady, pleaded no contest in September to falsely stating that she had collected signatures.

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Follow Ed White at twitter.com/edwhiteap

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