Livonia Man Faces Felony Charge For Alleged Threat Against Oakland County Election Official

Andrew Hess a 37-year-old Livonia resident has been charged with a felony offense after allegedly making a comment about hanging Oakland County’s director of elections Joe Rozell for treason. The incident occurred during a ballot recount in Oakland County on Dec. 15.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced the decision to charge Hess on Monday citing a state law that prohibits making terrorist threats or false reports of terrorism. The charge carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $20000.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Hess walked outside of the recount room and stated “hang Joe for treason” referring to Rozell. McDonald, a Democrat, said in a press release that some individuals “seek to undermine the integrity of the election process by threatening and intimidating election workers and supervisors.”

Hess told The Detroit News in a Jan. 10 interview that it was a possibility he had made a remark about treason and hanging at the recount. “I very regularly tell people the penalty for treason is hanging by the neck,” he said.

Hess’s lawyer Robert Muise argued in a Jan. 16 letter to prosecutors that Hess should be protected from prosecution by the First Amendment. Muise said the charge represented a politically-motivated prosecution aimed at suppressing citizens’ freedom of speech rights to criticize their government.

The Dec. 15 recount centered on a Royal Oak ballot proposal that allowed for ranked choice voting. The measure passed with 51% support.