The former state House Speaker for Michigan is reportedly under investigation after months of allegations of both personal and professional impropriety.
The Detroit News reported on October 18 2022 that the state attorney general’s office had opened a probe into Republican Lee Chatfield in connection with “an array of purported crimes”:
According to two April affidavits, in which state agents attempted to establish probable cause to get a judge to authorize search warrants, the Republican ex-lawmaker’s brother, Aaron Chatfield, told investigators he occasionally received money from Lee Chatfield’s political accounts despite not doing “any work.” In one affidavit, an agent in the Attorney General’s financial crimes section said Aaron Chatfield purchased and provided the prescription drug Adderall to Lee Chatfield and two Lansing lobbyists “20 to 30 times.”
Chatfield, who was ineligible for running for re-election in 2020 due to term limits, has yet to be charged. The investigation reportedly began in January 2022, after his sister-in-law Rebekah Chatfield accused him of a pattern of sexual abuse beginning when she was 15 years old. The former Speaker has denied these allegations.
The newspaper further reported that investigators are also examining the connections between the Chatfield family and “cannabis entrepreneur” James Daly; Daly, who owns four Herbana cannabis shops in the state, was Lee Chatfield’s guest of honor at Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “state of the state” address in January 2020. Six months later, the speaker’s brother Paul and his wife Hannah began working for Daly’s company. Aaron Chatfield also obtained a job at Herbana.
During his tenure as House Speaker, Lee Chatfield — like other right-wing political figures — expressed opposition to mandates from Whitmer’s administration to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state; for example, the Detroit Free Press reported in August 2020 he criticized Whitmer for extending a state of emergency into that September:
“Same day Governor allows Detroit casinos to reopen, she orders Northern Michigan and [the Upper Peninsula] to go backwards,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield said on Twitter.
“Science? Data? Sorry, but this seems more like political science.”
In October 2020, Chatfield reportedly “gave remarks” at a rally organized by his father, Rusty Chatfield, at the state capitol — which was also the site of a separate demonstration attended by armed men who made their way into the building — for the right-wing group Stand Up Michigan, one of several around the United States that had promoted events calling for the state to be “unlocked” (that is to say, for pandemic-related quarantining and distancing to end) during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic:
As we have noted before, the bulk of these types of demonstrations throughout 2020 had links to various types of conspiracy theorists.
The October 2020 protest occurred the same day that information about a plot to kidnap Whitmer came to light. Two men, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, were convicted in August 2022 on charges of kidnapping conspiracy and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Update 10/25/2022, 9:16 a.m. PST: Updated to reflect that the relationship between Lee Chatfield’s family and cannabis retailer James Daly is also under investigation. — ag