By Chad Selweski / 11.30.2016
Brandon Hall, the controversial west Michigan blogger who served as a key figure in the Donald Trump campaign’s organizing efforts across the state, was found guilty today on 10 felony counts of election fraud.
In Ottawa County Circuit Court, a jury took less than an hour to find Hall guilty of forging signatures on nominating petitions for a circuit judge candidate who was a Hall political ally. In 2012, Hall, now 27, admitted to signing fake signatures on the petition of Chris Houghtaling as they traveled to the state capital of Lansing to beat the candidate filing deadline. Hall used different pens and both hands to make the signatures look distinct.
Though he hopes to appeal the verdict, Hall now faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 27.
While Hall was not a part of the national Trump campaign apparatus, he emerged early in the primary election season as an ardent supporter of the New York billionaire and later played a key role as a leader of the Trump camp’s grassroots efforts in the state.
Hall and a group of young GOP activists emerged as the team that would provide field work and organizing efforts. The state communications director for Trump praised Hall’s campaign role in a post-election commentary on Facebook:
“Beyond just helping me, he wore about 10 different hats for the campaign and came through for everyone time and time again, even when he knew he would not be receiving the credit,” said Tim Lineberger. “I am proud to call Brandon one of my best friends and look forward to seeing what he does next. No doubt it will be HUGE!”
It’s unclear if the national Trump campaign team was aware of Hall’s track record of law-breaking when they put him in a significant campaign position.
According to MLive, Hall in 2008 was elected to the Grand Haven school board at age 18, then resigned two years later after being convicted of stealing $750 from an American Cancer Society fundraiser. In 2012, Hall emerged as a candidate for the 89th state House seat, dropping out before the primary election when he was jailed for violating probation by testing positive for marijuana. He ran unsuccessfully in a 2014 comeback attempt as a write-in candidate for the school board.
In 2015, the Michigan Secretary of State ruled that Hall violated campaign finance law during a Grand Haven City Council election by omitting required disclaimers from a postcard mailing.
While his election fraud charges relating to the 2012 nominating forgeries were pending, Hall’s blog, West MI Politics, occasionally posted eyebrow-raising right-wing claims without offering facts.
Yet, Hall brashly mounted a campaign for a state House seat in this year’s August GOP primary in Ottawa County but received just 8 percent of the vote.
At the fraud trial in Ottawa County, one of Hall’s friends, Zachary Savage, testified against him in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Hall did not take the stand and his attorney offered no defense witnesses.