GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Muskegon County prosecutor will lead the investigation into possible voting machine tampering by a group that includes the Barry County sheriff.

Prosecutor D.J. Hilson was selected to review the case after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel requested a special prosecutor. One of the people under the investigation is her Republican challenger in the November general election, Matt DePerno.

Hilson has not laid out a timeline for the investigation. He declined an interview Thursday, saying he can’t discuss specifics of the investigation, but outlined the process in a statement:

“The Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office is in the process of gathering all the information and evidence already collected, including working on a time to meet with investigators to help determine if any further or follow-up investigation is necessary. Once all of that work has been done, we will begin the process of reviewing all the information as well as reviewing the best process to use in determining whether there is sufficient evidence to issue criminal charges. As with any criminal case, we are unable to predict a time frame for when all these steps in the process will be completed. Due to my ethical responsibilities, I am unable to discuss any specifics related to the investigation or provide any further information at this time.”

Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson

The investigation centers around whether third parties — who, despite ruling after ruling to the contrary, insist the 2020 election was “stolen” from former President Donald Trump — gained access to voting tabulators following the November 2020 election.

One machine from Irving Township in Barry County was taken in 2021, the county clerk previously told Target 8. She said someone from Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf’s department and a third party took the machine to Detroit, “tore it apart” and ultimately returned it with a broken security seal.

Republican candidate for attorney general Matt DePerno allegedly helped orchestrate the plan to get access to tabulators from Irving Township and two other northern Lower Peninsula townships. He was also allegedly in a hotel room when the machines were tested, presumably to prove they were or could be tampered with during the election.

DePerno, a lawyer from Kalamazoo, has been endorsed by Trump, whose camp has promoted the false accusations of voter fraud.

While the case falls under the Michigan Attorney General’s authority, the fact that DePerno is her opponent creates a clear conflict of interest for Nessel.

In a statement posted to Twitter Thursday, DePerno argued Nessel was “weaponizing her office … to harass and persecute her political opponents.”

He said she has made “false claims” about his investigation of the election and argued he had a court order that would allow the examination of 22 tabulators.

He called the selection of a special prosecutor an “unprecedented election stunt” and said it was an abuse of her powers.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council, described as an autonomous entity within the Department of Attorney General, made the decision to appoint Hilson, a Democrat who was first elected Muskegon County prosecutor in 2012.

“I don’t know that she even had to go to an elected prosecutor. She probably could have gone to someone who was not an elected prosecutor, who was one or who is an attorney of great renown within the state,” Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School Professor Jeff Swartz.

So should that someone have an R behind their name as a way to avoid the bad optics that could come with having a Democratic AG’s office appoint another Democrat to prosecute the Republican she’s running against?

“Not necessarily. It could be someone who is an independent, it could be a Democrat who is well respected even by Republicans,” Swartz said. “But understanding that no matter what, those people who are on the farther right end of this issue are going to want someone who is not a D, but an R prosecuting them.”