Eric Smith, the Macomb County Prosecutor, charged with embezzlement, was given a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond at his arraignment today. Smith and his former chief of operations were given $100,000 personal bonds on numerous criminal charges related to the alleged embezzlement of $600,000 from drug and alcohol forfeiture funds since 2012. The question of whether or not this was fair has led to debate. To gain insight into this issue, we spoke to several leaders of our criminal justice community. iStock_000009283153_Large-2-300x201

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a criminal defense firm that is known as the top team in the state of Michigan. When asked about Eric Smith’s case and the bond, Grable stated, “A PR Bond is placing the defendant on the honor code. If the defendant comes to court and fulfills their obligations, they do not have to go into their pocket. As for Eric Smith, he was never the easiest to deal with. The fact that he may have tampered with forfeiture funds is of great concern to the integrity of our just criminal community.”

William Amadeo is a Partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo did work in Macomb County and was reached for comment on the issue. In response, Amadeo said, “Listen, I understand the outrage. Eric Smith is not one of my favorite people, but with that stated, in the wake of COVID-19, jails do not want to detain defendants. This is a time when the jails are living in a state of fear. If a PR has ever been appropriate across the board, it is now as we are living with the Coronavirus.”

The Detroit Free Press has reported Michigan the first coronavirus case at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility. This brings the number of state prisoners to 24 along with seven Michigan Department of Corrections employees that have tested positive for the disease. What this means to the future of criminal justice in our state is up for debate. To gain insight into the matter, we spoke to three of the top criminal lawyers in our state.index2-300x129

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. Grabel provided commentary when he said, “The biggest concern is that we don’t know where the end will be. Michigan Senator Erika Geiss told the press that Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility had failed women, and the coronavirus intersects with underlying issues. The biggest issue is that inmates cannot stay 6 feet apart from one another. This is a crisis that is growing worse by the day. The criminal justice community needs to come together right now.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Amadeo is known as the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County and provided commentary when he said, “Resolutions, am I the only one that sees the need for this right now? I have been in touch with 18 prosecutors today to try and resolve matters. Four of them answered, and most are in a wait and see mode. I have absolutely no issue going to trial, but this is a time when we need to look outside of the box. I’ll leave the ball in the prosecutor’s court right now.”

Did you know that up until now, if you were charged with a misdemeanor it was not required that the prosecutor provide you with the police report used to charge you? Previously, it was left to the prosecutor whether they wanted to share items of discovery like a police report with you or your attorney. In most places, getting a police report was as simple as following the rules specified by each prosecutor’s office when making a request. In most places, prosecutors were not hiding the ball when it came to handing over items of discovery in misdemeanor cases. Unfortunately, there are still some places where defendants are not receiving the proper access to police reports and other discovery because it wasn’t required of them to provide this information until now. The Michigan Supreme Court made this decision with a 5-2 vote in favor of the change. iStock_000013860209_Full-2-300x200

What Is Discovery?

Discovery in a criminal case generally includes any police reports, surveillance videos or witness statements made in relation to an alleged crime. It is basically the written or recorded information used to charge someone with a crime. The sharing of this information is essential to the fairness of criminal procedure. Information gets recorded anytime an officer interviews a witness or the defendant themselves in relation to an alleged crime. The combination of all of these interviews and other investigations end up in a series of documents that end up becoming the entirety of a police report, which is then submitted to a prosecutor for the authorization of criminal charges.

A special prosecutor will decide if a former jail administrator will face criminal charges related to inappropriate conduct alleged between him and inmates. These accusations first came to light when several corrections officers approached a newly named Undersheriff and told him about the jail administrator’s alleged activity. The case was previously sent to the Michigan State Police to be reviewed and investigated. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan petitions for a special prosecutor when they may be a conflict of interest with the local prosecutor in a given case. A special prosecutor in this case has yet to be named. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Original Case Details

This Jail administrator served the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department for decades in various roles was forced to resign in April of 2019 following allegations of inappropriate conduct with past inmates. An investigation found lewd text messages and photos of former and current inmates on the jail administrator’s phone. He has also been accused of delivering coffee and lunches to a former inmate while he was on duty and in uniform. Another accusation has the jail administrator taking a former inmate on a trip to Lansing, calling it a work trip, and subsequently charging their hotel room to the Sheriff’s department. These accusations are among many that this administrator is facing. He is facing potential charges of criminal sexual conduct and embezzlement for his alleged actions.

After a lengthy court battle which ended up in the Michigan Supreme Court, Livingston County Chief Judge Michael Hatty signed an order vacating a citizen’s conviction for illegally manufacturing marijuana. The Supreme Court found that the police had violated the Fourth Amendment by conducting an unreasonable search and seizure which resulted in finding evidence related to marijuana cultivation. While marijuana is now fully legalized in Michigan, this case occurred back in 2012, when only medical marijuana was legal. A charge of illegal manufacture or distribution of marijuana was the felony charge that this man faced. The Livingston County Circuit Court originally denied defendant’s motion to suppress the marijuana evidence. Now with the Supreme Court’s ruling, the case was sent back to Livingston County Circuit Court which was left with no other option but to dismiss the case. marijuana leaf

Original Case Details

The defendant in this case was charged with manufacturing marijuana when Michigan state troopers arrived at the defendant’s home to execute an arrest warrant for the defendant’s son. The state troopers alleged they smelled burning marijuana and forcibly entered the home without a warrant and found large amounts of marijuana. The police arrived at the home looking for defendant’s son without knowing if the son was even home. They were at most permitted to do a “knock and talk” to see if the son was in fact at the home. The troopers believed they had exigent circumstances which would allow them to enter the home without a proper search warrant.

It is fairly common knowledge that if you have a court date, you are expected to show up on time for that date. In a criminal case, you are personally required to be present for most all hearings. In a civil case, the requirement to be personally present is typically relaxed, and attorneys routinely appear on their client’s behalf for many court proceedings. If any party is unable to make it to court, then the court usually allows for absences due to good reasons like sickness or other unavoidable issues. In the present case, Oakland County Ciruit Court Judge Leo Bowman decided that contagious pneumonia was not reason enough for a man in his court to miss a scheduled court date on a civil matter. iStock_000013714975_Double-2-300x217

Original Case Details

Howard Baum ended up in Bowman’s court over a money situation dispute where Baum lent over $1 million to some extended family and the money has not since been paid back to Baum’s satisfaction. This case has taken several years, and Baum has never been late, nor does he have any criminal record whatsoever. On this date Baum was scheduled to appear in front of Bowman for a hearing related to this case. Baum had been battling flu-like symptoms for months and on this day ended up at Lake Urgent Care where he was diagnosed with pneumonia that was contagious to others. He was advised by doctors to avoid contact with others until completion of a five-day course of antibiotics. The report ended with the doctor stating that “he is at risk for spreading his illness.”

While the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken over the news, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been active to help protect inmates and those that may be incarcerated during this period. On Wednesday, the ACLU wrote to the Justice Department and the Bureau of prisons to request the release of the most vulnerable inmates — those who are elderly or with chronic health conditions — and to slow prison admissions and reduce overcrowded conditions. To see how this initiative will affect the state of Michigan, we obtained commentary from three of the top criminal lawyers in our state. index2-300x129

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has amassed a team that is known as the top criminal defense firm in Michigan. When asked about the ACLU initiative, Grabel said, “Prosecutors and defense lawyers are at odds of this issue. The consensus of the defense counsel is that the vulnerable need to be released from the Michigan Department of Corrections. Not all prosecutors share that sentiment and argue that the protection of the community is still at their forefront. This is becoming a time of great controversy in the legal profession.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top trial lawyers across the state of Michigan and expressed concern for inmates. Amadeo said, “I’m concerned about the elderly. I’m concerned about those with mental health issues that are not being treated properly. COVID-19 has changed the way we look at things. If the Michigan Department of Corrections does not want overcrowding and sickness to spread, they need to follow the mandate from the ACLU. Prison time should not be the top priority of prosecutors right now.”

With the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), criminal justice advocates are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to release as many elderly, disabled, and medically frail inmates from Illinois prisons as possible before they may be affected by COVID-19. While the governor has been non-responsive to those activists at this point, there is cause for concern. To see how this initiative may change the state of Michigan, we spoke to several of the top criminal lawyers in our state. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. Grabel provided commentary when he stated, “By the end of 2019 there were nearly 7,800 state prisoners in Illinois making up close to 20% of the state prison population. This is a large number of inmates that have special needs. In many ways, this becomes a socioeconomic argument for why there should be less incarceration during this time of crisis. With Illinois and Michigan having similar views on criminal justice reform, there could be s trickle-down effect on the Michigan Department of Corrections.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top trial lawyers in Michigan and was quoted as saying, “Numbers don’t lie but are often hard to come by. The Illinois Department of Corrections doesn’t keep a tab on how many disabled, medically frail inmates it holds, but activists have said it could be hundreds in need. Illinois is a state with more resources than Michigan, which causes a tremendous amount of concern for inmates in need, When negotiating with elderly defendants, we have to look at the cost to house these inmates and balance that against the threat to society. This is not the time to press for incarceration. Teamwork is required to achieve the needs of justice for both victims and the incarcerated.”

The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has cause mass hysteria and panic worldwide. Schools have been cancelled, sports leagues have suspended play, and an increasing number of people have caught the coronavirus in the United States. As of now there have been just over 1,600 cases of coronavirus nationwide, which have resulted in 41 deaths. The virus saw its first outbreak in Wuhan, China and has been spreading worldwide at an alarming pace. Italy, Spain and other countries are going into complete lockdowns to try to curb the spread of coronavirus. The state of Michigan has seen less than 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far, but this number is expected to increase. The risk of disease spreading is always higher in places where people are in close quarters like jails and prisons. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Challenges Facing Michigan’s Jails

Jail inmates don’t have the option to just head outside when they want or go pick up some hand sanitizer from their local supermarket. They also aren’t able to control who they are around and be able to distance themselves in the best possible way to remain healthy. Some of the measures necessary to prevent the spread of disease are simply impossible within the walls of our Michigan jails and prisons. Oakland County Jail alone houses anywhere from 1,200 to 1,300 inmates on any given day. Most jails also don’t have N-95 masks to protect staff members from disease either.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a profound effect on the criminal justice system across the country. A recent article by Samantha Melamed and Mike Newall of The Philadelphia Inquirer explained the concern of managing jail crowding and how the virus is causing concerns in the city.

To gain insight into how the Philadelphia mandate could affect the state of Michigan, we spoke to three of the top criminal defense lawyers in our state. The comments from these attorneys explained where the state of Michigan stands on this issue. index2-300x129

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Grabel and Associates are known as the top criminal defense firm in our state and practice in every county across Michigan. Grabel provided commentary when he stated, “The article in the Philadelphia Inquirer hits very close to home. As someone that grew up in South Jersey and now lives and practice in the capital of Michigan, we see a lot of similarity in our criminal justice systems. The issue of overcrowding in our jails and the Michigan Department of Corrections is a tug of war between protecting inmates and society. This is a time for fair resolutions across the board. Our firm has not stopped working during this crisis, and we will all need to think outside of the box to protect our clients.”

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