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Hawkins bound over for trial on six felony charges

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 23, 2020

 Sherikia Hawkins

Sherikia Hawkins

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PONTIAC — The case against Southfield City Clerk Sherikia Hawkins will move to Oakland County Circuit Court, a judge recently ruled.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the bind-over in a June 12 press release.

On Sept. 23, Hawkins was arrested and charged with six felonies stemming from the Nov. 6, 2018 election.

Officials said in a news release that discrepancies in the Southfield voter count were brought to the secretary of state’s attention by the Oakland County Clerk’s Office and the Oakland County Board of Canvassers following its efforts to certify Southfield’s absentee ballots.

The Michigan State Police conducted an investigation, according to officials, and determined that election records had been altered.

Hawkins was charged and arraigned in 46th District Court on six felony counts in front of Judge Michelle Friedman Appel. Officials said Hawkins was given a $15,000 personal bond.

Southfield judges recused themselves from the case, and Appel was a visiting judge in the 46th District Court until the case was moved to the 45th District Court in Oak Park, where she currently serves as a judge.

Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson hosted a press conference in Lansing Sept. 23, where they offered further detail on Hawkins’ charges.

Benson said Hawkins allegedly made “unauthorized and inaccurate changes” to the list of voters who cast absentee ballots during the election.

However, the changes did not alter the results of the election, she said.

On Nov. 19 and 20, Hawkins and her attorneys appeared before Appel at the 45th District Court for a preliminary exam.

During the preliminary exam, Prosecuting Attorney James Cunningham said he believed Hawkins made a mistake with the absentee ballots and took illegal action to try to rectify the issue.

Cunningham repeated numerous times that 193 absentee ballots had been tampered with and that Hawkins had wanted to protect her otherwise stellar reputation.

Harold Gurewitz, an attorney for Hawkins, said in his opening statement in November that election mistakes happen all the time.

Gurewitz said previously that the issues stemmed from the high-speed scanners Southfield used during the election, and that Hawkins’ actions were not made with fraudulent intent.

On Nov. 20, 2019, Appel concluded testimony and adjourned the case so that both parties could file written arguments.

Hawkins, who was elected as the Southfield city clerk in 2017, has been charged with:

• Falsifying returns/records, punishable by five years and/or $1,000.

• Forgery of a public record, a 14-year felony.

• Misconduct in office, punishable by five years and/or $10,000.

• Using a computer to commit a crime — election law — falsifying returns/records, punishable by seven years and/or $5,000.

• Using a computer to commit a crime — forgery of a public record, a 10-year felony and/or $10,000.

• Using a computer to commit a crime — misconduct in office, a seven-year felony and/or $5,000.

“The voters of our state deserve a process that is unobstructed,” Nessel said in a prepared statement. “That is why I am committed to doing everything in my power to protect our elections from every conceivable threat. The foundation of our democracy depends on it.”

Gurewitz did not return a request for comment on the bind-over by press time. Hawkins declined to comment on the case.

Hawkins is a certified municipal clerk elected to the Southfield post in November 2017, saying then that her main goals were to modernize the Clerk’s Office, support absentee voting, organize voter registration and education drives, and work to stop voter suppression. She was formerly the Pontiac city clerk.

According to a 2017 oakgov.com Elite 40 under 40 post, she has an undergraduate communications degree from Oakland University and a master’s in political science with a specialization in public administration from Eastern Illinois University.

She was noted for her involvement in the National Black Women of Congress and numerous clerk’s associations, according to the posting.

Hawkins is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. June 23 in front of Judge Leo Bowman for an arraignment and pretrial.

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