RACINE — The man who allegedly forged signatures on recall petitions, including the signature of a dead man, will face multiple felony charges in March.
Court records indicate Mark Demet, 59, of the 2400 block of Arlington Avenue, will face a 9-count complaint including two counts of election fraud and seven counts felony personal ID theft. All the charges are felonies and expose him to a potential 50 years in prison and a $90,000 fine.
His initial appearance in court is set for March 13. There he will be formally notified of the allegations against him, and the court will consider whether to set a bond to ensure his appearance at future proceedings.
Court documents say Demet admitted to an investigator that he circulated the petitions against state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, in question and signed the names of other people, one of whom is dead. That was Ralph Petersen whose wife Violet was also fraudulently listed on a petition, according to the criminal complaint. Seven people listed on recall petitions told sheriff’s investigators they did not sign. The petition sheets also carried Demet’s signature. As the circulator of those pages he testified to the accuracy of the information they contained.
The Journal Times left messages with Demet and his brother, Jeff, who is also an alleged victim of the fraud but was not named as a victim in the criminal complaint. Neither returned calls Tuesday.
The investigation began when Ken Brown of Racine noticed Jeff Demet’s name appeared four times on petitions. Brown, a blogger and co-creator of Citizens for Responsible Government of Racine, said he wasn’t looking for problems. He was just scrolling through documents on his laptop, watching television with one eye while using his other eye to see what local political figures had signed the recall petition.
Brown said he knows Jeff Demet, has talked with him often, and thought he shares Brown’s own conservative outlook. He questioned Jeff Demet who said he never signed the petitions.
“I’m certainly glad that they are prosecuting (Mark Demet) demonstrating that we will not accept fraud in Racine County,” Brown said on Tuesday afternoon.
He said he hopes Demet receives enough jail time and a large enough fine to discourage other people who may be contemplating any sort of cheating in the election process.
“I think he did some joking around and he is going to get in trouble for it,” Kathy Demet, Mark Demet’s ex-wife, told The Journal Times in early February. “It’s a shame, he’s a good person … I don’t think he would do anything intentionally to hurt anyone.”